Swim Safety Gone Overboard at YMCA

Readers bkdeykrtnn
— Safety is good. Excess safety can actually undermine itself, as it seems to be doing at this Y, in Philadelphia:

Dear Free-Range Kids: The YMCA where my family has a membership has recently made a change to its free swim policy that made me instantly think of you. The more I think about it, the more I’m hoping you can help me figure out how to deal with it.

The new policy is that all children under age 11 who do not pass a swim test (swimming unaccompanied above water for the length of half the pool) must wear a life jacket–in addition to having their parent in the water with them in the shallow end–while enjoying “free” swim. As you can imagine, this new policy stinks! My son can’t practice swimming anymore since he can’t go underwater, can’t move his arms enough to stroke and can barely get himself out of the pool with all the extra puff he’s encased in. Not to mention he is now developing a false sense of security about his own safety in the water, and a complete inability to float on his own.

The Y, of course, claims the new policy is safer. But I disagree. How safe can kids be in the water if they’re never given the opportunity to practice actual water safety?! They can practice during swim lessons, of course–but those cost money in addition to the membership.

What do you think? I’ve written my first letter to the powers that be, but am wondering what more I can do. – Krista

Lenore here: I’m wondering what else she can do, too. That’s where you come in, readers. Any advice you have for her is welcome. What irks me most about this policy is that is crippling. It’s like telling kids who have not yet mastered bike riding that they can’t take off the training wheels. There’s also something insidious about the idea that kids are in constant danger unless their parents are right next to them. Adds my buddy Ben Miller, policy analyst at Common Good:

“In all likelihood, the Y is less concerned with the children’s safety (after all, they should be pretty safe in a supervised environment with a lifeguard) than with their own safety from being sued. In the unlikely event that a child is hurt, they can claim to have done ‘everything possible’ to avoid risk. And the policy doesn’t cost them anything; it only costs the children, who have a harder time learning to swim, and the parents, who have to pay for lessons.”

AND get into the water! – L. 

Life vest? Check. But where is your security detail?

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233 Responses to Swim Safety Gone Overboard at YMCA

  1. Earth.W July 11, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Here is the reason why they made this decision; “They can practice during swim lessons, of course–but those cost money in addition to the membership.”

    Their decision has nothing to do with safety but everything to do with taking more money from the parents.

  2. Andy July 11, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    @Earth.W It sounds to me the same. They use safety is as excuse to collect more money from parents. The rule is designed to make it impossible to teach basic water movements to parents.

    What is even worst, kids will likely get ton of bad habits and wrong expectations about water if they go to swim with parents often. Which means even more money for YMCA.

    Is there another pool you can go to? Fight bad pricing policy by not giving them money.

  3. Warren July 11, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Simple cover our ass so we do not get sued ruling. And if it is implemented in one location, it won’t be long before it is state wide, then nation wide.

    Was a NLS cert. lifeguard, taught lifeguards, taught swimming, competed as a lifeguard for the town of Pickering. We had two town pools at the time, and never had a swim test for anyone coming in for public swimming.

    The only rules we had about PFD’s were that the only ones used were the ones we supplied, and not off the high boards.

    Lawyers and administrators are sucking the life out of life. I really feel sorry for the generations to come, and how little life they will actually be allowed to experience.

  4. Katie July 11, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Be persistent. Get your friends/neighbors to write and complain also. Point out that swimming is done horizontally and life jackets hold children vertically. It self-defeats to require this. Have everyone writing the same basic thing.

  5. Iuliia July 11, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    What happened to the old lakes and rivers? Or too much real sense of real danger?

  6. Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Wow. Our YMCA requires parents to be in the water with kids 6 and under (no life jackets required), and parents to be in the building with kids 10 and under. If you’re over age 6 you can (1) take a shallow water swim test (basically can you float on your stomach and back) and swim alone in the shallow pool or (2) take a deep water swim test (can you jump into deep water and tread water for 60 seconds) and swim anywhere alone. These seem like reasonable policies to me. The one you describe seems ridiculous. How are these kids ever going to learn to swim?

  7. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    Our YMCA says kids under 8 have to have a parent in the pool with them, but they leave the floatie issue up to the parent.
    I agree, it’s impossible to learn to swim with a life jacket. Our YMCA has these floaties that strap to your back of varying degrees. As the kid gets stronger/more confident, you can reduce the size of the floatie until they don’t need it at all.
    If I were krista, I’d cancel my membership, state why, and leave. I go to the pool to have fun with my kids and help them learn to swim. This makes the learning to swim impossible. Summer’s here. I bet there are some good outdoor pools.

  8. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    And I agree with Ben. What they’ve done is make sure that the only way kids will be able to swim without a life vest is in a swim lesson. $$

  9. Shoshanna July 11, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    lullia- Not everyone has easy access to clean lakes or rivers. I did, but the pool was within walking distance, while the lake. My friends and I would frequently walk there by ourselves to hang out on summer afternoons or weekends. The only rule was that we had to go with a friend, not by ourselves. I also started learning how to swim around when I learned how to walk. I hated putting my head under, but my dad taught me how to float on my back. This probably did more for my safety than anything like the YMCA policy, and I plan on teaching our kids how to swim as early as possible. There is nothing better for water safety than being a strong swimmer, and you don’t get to be a strong swimmer without plenty of unencumbered time in the water.

  10. Natalie July 11, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    That’s a good idea shoshanna. The next time I’m at our (thank god still sane) YMCA, I’m going to teach my girls to float on their back.

  11. Per July 11, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    As Natalie said: Cancel membership, and tell them why. Ask for a refund of your membership fee from the time of cancellation, since you are cancelling because they changed the terms of the contract.

  12. Eileen July 11, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I put myself through college working at YMCA as a lifeguard, swim instructor, and swim coach. I doubt that is has anything to do with forcing people to put their kids in swim lessons, and more to do with liability.

    My suggestion would be to speak directly to the Aquatics Director and understand more about the policy, who made the decision, etc. Ask if ALL YMCAs have the same policy or if it’s just this branch (I don’t believe the YMCA to which I belong and my son is a lifeguard has this policy). You could also ask to speak to the branch director if necessary. I think it’s important to express your very logical concerns.

  13. Christine July 11, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I agree, cancel membership and go somewhere else. There has to be other pools around. Many fitness centers have pools as well.
    I also believe it is about the money, Lessons are expensive.
    I learned to swim by my father throwing me in a deep pool many years ago.

  14. Filioque July 11, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    I have no advice for the reader, just a rant about the YMCA in general. I don’t know if there are big differences between individual branches, but if Lenore had a free range “thumbs down” award, our branch would definitely win. I’ve never seen a more paranoid and hysterical outfit: One day during camp pickup this summer, they refused to page my son by the name he goes by (his middle name), because he’s registered at the camp under his first name!

  15. Eileen July 11, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I stand corrected (already)…it looks like the policy for my YMCA is similar, but they do offer different “levels” of swim tests and only list a PFD (personal flotation device) as what the the child has to wear if they can’t pass one of the swim tests.

  16. Linda Wightman July 11, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    The Y, which we found so helpful when our children were young, seems to have gone off the deep end in a number of areas recently. If this is a national policy, you don’t stand much of a chance of changing things in time to help your own son, but if it’s local, it’s worth a try enlisting the testimony of lifeguards, swim instructors, and others who know that you don’t learn to swim in a life jacket. On the other hand, it may be practical just to bite the bullet for one set of swim lessons, which should be enough to get him swimming half the length of the pool and who knows, might open up some extra time for practice. My experience is that the Y is often the least expensive option, but there may be others: public pools (though they have their own rules and are often overcrowded), private lessons in someone’s private pool, other more expensive options — just to get him to pass the swim test.

    It irks me no end to bend to ridiculous rules, but sometimes it’s the quickest way to accomplish the goal, which I assume is having your son able to use the pool unencumbered. After that, you can fight for the rest of the population.

    Free swim isn’t free.

  17. Hels July 11, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    I think it has more to do with them pushing everyone into swimming lessons (more money! ka-ching! ) than with safety or fear of lawsuits, etc. – after all, there could be waivers or disclaimers instead.

  18. Candace July 11, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Seriously! This is nuts! Wearing a life jacket is a parent’s decision, not a damn policy decision! I learned how to swim when I was 5, and never wore a life jacket while swimming. I only wore one if I went rowing or boating on a lake like I did at camp a few times. Yes, I DID have to pass a swim test at camp, but by then, I was 15 and was advanced enough to swim correctly and pass it.

  19. Cate July 11, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Our Y has the same policy and it’s infuriating! You can’t learn to swim with a life jacket on. I taught lessons for years and that’s about as basic as it gets. But alas, our Y also “teaches” kids to “swim” while wearing a bubble which also doesn’t work which is why they have kids in lessons, still wearing bubbles, when they’re 6 years old with 5 1/2 years of lessons under their (bubble) belt. I took my swimming business elsewhere because, frankly, the Y is just too big to take on. I think more than anything they are terrified of getting sued and will never change the policy simply because they are covering their asses.

  20. Melissa Simms July 11, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    At our Y, the policy is either a parent has to be in the water with a non-swimming kid OR the kid has to wear a life jacket. Both is ridiculous! Also one free round of swim lessons per year is included with the cost of membership.

  21. Another Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I have to be the dissenting voice here. I worked as a lake ranger for several years, and worked plenty of drownings. I am as free range as they come in most ways, but I made both of my children wear life jackets in the pool until they could swim well enough to swim one length of the pool without assistance. I honestly don’t feel this rule is that unreasonable. Our school district, our parks and recreation department, and our local Y all offer swim lessons for about $35 a session. We have plenty of those boutique swim schools who charge $$$, but my daughter learned very well from our parks and recreation lessons, and my son learned how to swim through Special Olympics.

  22. Jessica July 11, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Is your Y a stand-alone Y, or is there a network of Ys that are all under the same leadership? In rural areas, each Y is usually on there own. In large cities, they are often grouped together in an association. To “go to the top” you need to know if the exec at your Y is at the top, of if you need to get past your exec and into the association staff dealing with multiple Ys. If in an association, there is likely someone overseeing all the pools. Also, there is likely a group in HR/Risk Management/Marketing that are making these decisions. In that case, it is pointless to talk to branch staff because they are powerless.

    Also, Redwoods is the Insurance company nearly every Y uses. Redwoods is over-the-top for requirements and safety, as well as a fear-based strategy for motivation. (I’m a former Y program director… I’ve been to their trainings!) I would guess that your Y wrote those policies to satisfy Redwoods and quite probably get a lower insurance rate.

    wearing a life jacket at 11 would be so humiliating. Our local Y’s have a shallow water and a deep water test, and a wrist band system. Kids who pass the shallow water test can swim in the shallow water without a parent. Kids who pass the deep water test can go anywhere (all ages). Kids who don’t pass either test must have a parent in the water, within arms reach, at all times. Life jackets are available, but never required. … i will not use them for my 1 and 5 year old. There are other ways (besides requiring a life jacket) to meet the insurance company demands.

  23. Michelle July 11, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Are there any other rec centers you can take your kid too? Where I am (suburbs) we have a YMCA, a city rec center, and other communities have their own rec centers as well, all with pools. I’d be pulling my membership so fast it’s not even funny. You can’t teach a kid to swim with a life jacket on.

  24. Sherri July 11, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    This is the policy at our city pools, but not our YMCA pool.

  25. MangoTreeMama July 11, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    The Y where we are member just introduced this policy. It’s infuriating. Life jacket PLUS “within arms reach of parent” for EVERYONE who can’t swim the length of the pool. I have 8 children. I am also not an octopus. I’ve talked to the aquatics director twice, about how kids can’t learn to swim with a life jacket, and our whole reason for joining the Y was so that I could teach them to swim. They have lessons, but the is NO WAY we can afford to put the children in lessons- membership alone is a stretch for our budget! The director assures me that their insurance company has required the change and that there is nothing she can do. Meanwhile, allthe kids whose parents *can* afford swim lessons laugh at my 5, 7, & 8 year olds who have to wear life jackets. Not to mention that now my 8 year old is now terrified of taking off her life jacket because it holds her so high in the water & she’s afraid she’ll “suddenly drown” if she takes it off. We plan to break the rules and teach the children the best I can, until I find another pool we can afford.

  26. Pophouse July 11, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    I just moved from a place where I felt the Y was pretty good (Missoula, MT), to a place where these sorts of policies are in effect (Billings, MT). In Missoula the daycare was reasonable and people could come and get their kids without a reasonable hassle. Just sign them in and out, and when picking them up, one would just go into the daycare area and get them. In Billings each kid is signed in by a staffer who gives them a bracelet who then gives the parent a matching bracelet which makes the whole process a big rigamarole. And in Missoula I never noticed any of those swim policies but in Billings they are as described above. I have twin four year olds who can swim with me, but only one is allowed to not wear a life jacket at a time. So every time I want to work with one on swimming I need to switch the life jacket, which makes it near impossible. Grr.

  27. Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Are you sure that the lifeguard is not mistaken? Our ymca (ottawa canada), the rule is under 8, they need to wear the lifejacket if they want to go in the pool on their own. Not when they are with a parent, unless there are more kids than 1 parent to 2 kids.

  28. LisaS July 11, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I agree that the rule is a bit overboard. I require my kids (both of whom passed the Y’s test and the ones administered by Boy/Girl Scouts) to wear life jackets when we’re running around at the lake so I don’t have to worry all the time – but if a parent is within arm’s reach AND there is a lifeguard it seems a bit ridiculous.

    MangoTreeMama – YMCAs everywhere have scholarships to help families afford their programs. I personally write a check specifically for that every year, as do many people I know. Ask the people at your Y about it. Even if you’re a fantastic swim teacher, your kids will learn something you don’t know from lessons … that they can teach you and you can pass along to the others. Please check into it.

  29. Emily July 11, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Wow, that is insane. If I remember correctly, the swim supervision rules for our YMCA are:

    KIDS UNDER SIX: Must be supervised by a parent or guardian at a 1:2 ratio, within arm’s reach, in the shallow end. Non-swimmers must wear life jackets/PFD’s, and be supervised at a ratio of 1:9

    KIDS AGE 6-9: Must be supervised by a parent or guardian in the water, not within arm’s reach, but within constant visual contact.

    KIDS 10 and up: May swim unaccompanied, but parents must remain in the YMCA if the child is under 12 (I think).

    ALL KIDS: Must be able to pass a swimming test (not sure what that entails) in order to use the deep end and the diving board. Also, I think the “non-swimmers must wear PFD’s” rule only applies if the child is too short to stand up in the shallow end with their head above water.

    However, I think “kids” just means 12 and under at our YMCA, because at 13, you’re allowed to participate in lane swim and “adult” fitness classes, and use the cardio and weights rooms as well. The only difference between 13-to-15’s and adults is, they aren’t allowed in the adult change rooms, but I started using the women’s change room when I was 14 or so, because A) My entire Bronze Cross class did, and B) This was before the family change room was built, and I was fed up with little boys prancing around the girls’ change room and gawking at me.

    Anyway, one more point–when I was a kid taking swimming lessons, we were always told to come to free swim (and, when I got older, lane swim) to practice what we’d learned in our lessons, on our own time. Whatever happened to that?

  30. Jessica July 11, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Information on the redwoods insurance group (YMCA insurance) website.

    Risk Management Conference in September

    “State of Aquatics”

  31. Renee Anne July 11, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Yeah, that seems excessive. My mother-in-law said something about how Little Man (2.5 years) will have to wear a vest at the pool and we don’t like that. He has a suit with a built-in flotation that keeps his head above water and he’s used to it (it’s what he wears here at home in our pool). It’s going to be interesting when we go back home to Wisconsin.

    Frankly, it sounds like another way for the Y to make money as well as hiding from potential lawsuits. What’s the point of a lifeguard or four if you’re making parents be lifeguards, too?

  32. pentamom July 11, 2013 at 10:16 am #

    Our Y policy is: kids under 6, supervised and in arm’s reach.No other pool restrictions.

    Kids under 12: not allowed in the Y without parent unless attending an enrolled program. (This is more of an “we don’t want unattended kids running around doing whoknowswhat and we don’t have the staff to babysit,” than a “safety” thing. Because people WERE using it as cheap all-day after school care.)

    That’s it.

    I’m not sure this is deliberately about making more money for the swim program, but it is clearly a way of making sure that only kids who have been through their swim program or are already proficient swimmers, ever get to learn. Because NO ONE learns to swim with a life jacket on.

  33. Emily Guy Birken July 11, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    This is one of the many many times I wish we could create a legally binding “I’m Not Going to Sue” card for people to offer in response to these ridiculous rules. That would allow organizations like the Y to let you opt out of these regulations if you sign an INGtS card, but still allow overly-cautious types to enjoy the bubble wrap.

    (I first conceived of this idea when I was pregnant with my first child and developed a minor but painful infection, the details of which I will not enumerate. When I called my OB to make an appointment to deal with this, I asked the nurse on call if I could take an over-the-counter medication that I knew from previous experience would help alleviate the symptoms. I was told I could do nothing but drink lots of water. When I finally made it to my doctor, she prescribed me the higher-strength prescription version of the very medication I could have purchased over the counter. I know the nurse was in cover-her-ass mode, but I was in pain, darn it, and I just wanted to know if the meds would make my child grow flippers or something. If I could have used an INGtS card, I could have felt a great deal better much sooner).

  34. Puzzled July 11, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Cancel your membership and request a refund. Give your reason as “I feel that the pool is an unsafe environment and that the YMCA cannot be counted on to provide adequate lifeguard coverage.” When they ask you to explain, tell them that they clearly have no confidence in their lifeguards, since they have this policy, and that you think they’re likely to be right about the skills of their own employees.

  35. Easy solution July 11, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    I didn’t read all the comments but I have an easy solution, don’t go there anymore.

    Once they lose all their clients they might get a clue.

    Sorry people are so silly!

  36. pentamom July 11, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I was happy to see that after our Y did extensive renovations, the change rooms are arranged as follows:

    Men’s and Women’s rooms, children allowed but not opposite sex children over 6.

    Family change rooms: one for male parent, and a separate one for female parent.

    Very sane.

  37. Uly July 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    “This is one of the many many times I wish we could create a legally binding “I’m Not Going to Sue” card for people to offer in response to these ridiculous rules. ”

    And what do you do when the insurance seeks to recoup the money spent on hospital treatment? Tell them to take it from you, because you won’t sue?

    Most of those cases are your insurance suing their insurance – not Emily suing the local Y because she’s a money grubber.

  38. pentamom July 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    “I didn’t read all the comments but I have an easy solution, don’t go there anymore.”

    It’s the simplest solution, but if there are no alternatives, or no affordable ones, it involves a sacrifice on your own part to do so. Sure, you can live without a Y membership, but if the benefits of it are important to you, and not otherwise obtainable, you have to weigh whether or not it’s worth it to make a point.

  39. pentamom July 11, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Well, Uly, if we’re talking about wish-fulfillment solutions, then maybe special, higher-cost insurance policies with riders that don’t permit the insurance company to sue if a waiver that meets a certain legal standard has been signed, would fix that.

    It seems there’s GOT to be a way to return sanity to institutional policies about stuff like this, even if actually getting it implemented is a pipe dream.

  40. Papilio July 11, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Well, I guess the bubble wrap keeps them floating too, so why learn how to swim…

    I read about lifejackets (keeping the body high in the water) and about bubbles (same). But when I was little, I wore these things:
    These keep the kids from drowning, without keeping the body either vertically or horizontally. Do these exist on your side of the Atlantic, and would the Y allow them as an alternative to lifejackets?

    And that test: are there limits on how often your kid can take it? Could he take it 50x in one afternoon? 😛

  41. Andy July 11, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    @Iuliia “What happened to the old lakes and rivers? Or too much real sense of real danger?”

    Winter, spring and fall, at least around here.

  42. Andy July 11, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    @Another Jennifer So, you say it is possible to learn how to swim while wearing the jacket?

  43. Uly July 11, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    It seems there’s GOT to be a way to return sanity to institutional policies about stuff like this, even if actually getting it implemented is a pipe dream.

    Given that they’re by no means universal across the board, I think taking the individual approach is probably best.

  44. Uly July 11, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Of course, a decent single-payer health care system would not go awry.

  45. Rachel July 11, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Oy! How are the kids going to learn to really swim if they are wearing life jackets. Our swim club doesn’t permit any type of flotation device, including water wings or life jackets, in the main pool because one of the goals of the club is for kids to learn to swim. it has been amazing to watch how many of the 4 and 5 year olds–even without lessons–begin to pick up some of the fundamentals of swimming. But they wouldn’t if they were in lifejackets.

  46. Uly July 11, 2013 at 10:55 am #


    ““Of course this is risky,” Mr. Logulov said, “but risk is everywhere in life. A brick could fall on your head in the street, for example. And this is just a small risk.””

    Is this article about letting your kids walk to school alone? Swim, god forbid, without a life vest? Take candy from strangers?

    No, no, and no. It’s about the practice of taking your kid to the circus and snapping a picture of them sitting next to a live tiger.

    They really do it differently in Russia! (Wonder what the insurance is worth?)


  47. Donna July 11, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    This certainly seems like overkill. I would imagine that one or the other – a parent within reach OR a life vest would be appropriate. I can’t see why you would need both.

    I don’t like the age-based rules that people are giving either. Kids learn things at different rates. Age is rarely relevant to swimming ability.

    I don’t use our Y so I don’t know the current rules. The pool we do use has no rules. It provides life vests in various sizes for use, but no test or age requirements. I guess the university trusts that its employees, students and alumni are not throwing their children in pools willy nilly to drown.

  48. J.T. Wenting July 11, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    as this is to prevent lawsuits for liability in case some kid drowns, sue them for preventing you teaching your child not to drown, thus putting childrens’ lives at risk.
    Make it a class action lawsuit, seek press attention, publicity campaigns, etc. etc.., using their own reasoning (and that of the entire “if it saves one child it’s worth it” culture of banning everything) against them might just open some eyes.

  49. Emily July 11, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    >>didn’t read all the comments but I have an easy solution, don’t go there anymore. Once they lose all their clients they might get a clue. Sorry people are so silly!<<

    That may be an "easy solution" in theory, but it's not so "easy" when it's right in the thick of summer, it's 30 C (or about 90 F) outside, your kids want to go swimming, and the only way to make that happen is by taking them to the YMCA. I know, I know, you COULD always teach your kids that "you can't always get what you want," but I think it's kind of mean to invoke that when they're expressing a reasonable want, that you're able to accommodate, and all other things being equal, you would accommodate it. A lot of kids won't understand an explanation like, "The YMCA has rules that my mother doesn't agree with, so we don't swim there." They'd take it as, "My mommy won't take me swimming because she's mean," or worse, "My mommy won't take me swimming because I've been bad." Either way, I don't think it's fair to not take your kids swimming ALL SUMMER, even if the pool rules are unreasonable.

    At our YMCA, we have membership assistance, and kids' swimming lessons up to Star Six are included with membership (just so we're clear, Star Six is probably the equivalent of Grey or White under the old Red Cross colour system), so if I had kids, and if I belonged to a YMCA with rules like that, and there were no other options in the area for swimming, I'd probably make swimming lessons happen somehow, either by applying for an assisted membership, or maybe by asking (nicely) if my parents or my brother could get my (hypothetical) kids swimming lessons as an early Christmas or birthday present, even if it was for the whole family–because, when you think about it, having kids who are safe and confident IS a gift to the whole family, because it means you can do more things in and around water together, without always having to be on guard. No life jacket can provide that.

  50. Emily July 11, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    P.S., No, I’ve never had kids, but I have worked with kids, in many different settings, including day camp. On the hottest days (and even the not-so-hot days), the kids would beg to go swimming from the moment they arrived. If the camp was at the YMCA, and the pools were booked at certain times, there was nothing we could do about it; however, at a camp that was based out of an outside location, with beach access, it was often easier to give in than dealing with whining all day long until the scheduled swimming time. Now, imagine that scenario for a parent, 24 hours a day, for an entire summer, EVERY summer, except swimming time could NEVER happen, because the parent didn’t agree with the rules at the local pool. I think the only way around it would be to stage a “swim-in,” wherein all the parents bring their kids to the pool at a predetermined date and time, and let them swim without life jackets–bonus points if they actually teach their kids swimming skills during this time. The lifeguards can’t kick EVERYONE out of the pool, at least not without the YMCA losing a lot of money in refunded swim fees and/or cancelled memberships, and seeing the parents teaching their kids might get them to see how life jackets impede swim learning instead of helping it.

  51. Leslie July 11, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Our Y group has been this way for several years; they are beyond the pale. And that is all I will say about it as I could go on and on! I would have stuck with our rec centers instead, but unfortunately, their pools started a 3.5 feet. No option for the littlest ones.

  52. Maggie July 11, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    @Another Jennifer- Were your children able to learn to swim while wearing PFD’s?

  53. Warren July 11, 2013 at 11:15 am #


    We call them water wings over here and they do not prevent drownings at all. As a matter of fact they have caused drownings. They do not support a child at all. The child’s arm, shoulder and back muscles keep their head above water. Some of the swimsuits with floatation in them, can be just as dangerous as they can force an unconcious body to float face down.

    Swimming lessons should be considered mandatory for all. I do not mean to a high level, but nothing beats the real thing, as compared to mom or dad doing it at the beach.

    When seeking your refunds from the Y, do not blame the lifeguards for being incompotent. Blame the Y. Tell the Y that they have their lifeguards too busy enforcing babysitting rules, that they cannot do their duty effectively. And they cannot.

    5 yrs of lifeguarding with our parks and rec. dept. and we never had ratio adult to kid rules. No arms length rules. No swim tests. None of that crap. And in 5 yrs, between 2 town pools, we never lost anyone. We had our fair share of bumps, bruises, cuts, sprains, a couple heart attacks, a lady go into labour. Gotta love those moms that think because it is kid number 4 they can predict exactly when she will deliver. But no one died and no one even came close to drowning.

  54. LRH July 11, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    This is the very reason why I tend to avoid any lifeguarded swimming places. They almost ALWAYS are more concerned with being sued or satisfying their insurance carrier’s requirements than actually being able to enjoy the place. Hence we tend to stick to “swim at your own risk” lakes and the pools at hotels, which also tend to be very hands-off.

    The minute I find out a place has lifeguards, I stay away, because you almost always encounter this nonsense at such places.

    That said, I was pleasantly surprised just yesterday–on the way home from a long road trip, we stumbled across a city(?) pool in a small town and took a chance. Wouldn’t you know it, they let our 4 & 6 year olds go off the diving boards, and they were fine with it. We the parents were close-by, and they had seen me swim in the deep end so they saw I was competent, but not at one point were they nagging us about anything. They just saw all was okay, and just watched from their chair in a most casual way, and it was great.

    ALL places should be like that.


  55. becca July 11, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Leave!! Our gym has one rule only kids under 6 must have a parent in the water. My 4 year old can swim so I sit in the attached Hot tub while she swims.

  56. Warren July 11, 2013 at 11:26 am #


    If the parents are not following the pool’s policy, and are therefore instructed to leave, they are not entitled to their money back. Not saying the protest wouldn’t make a point, just don’t expect your money back.

    When we had to ask everyone to leave the pool for biological reasons, or mechanical reasons, then yes they got refunded. And by biological, I do not mean that someone took a dump in the pool. That happens, you scoop it out, and keep right on swimming.

  57. Donna July 11, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    @ Emily –

    Our pool doesn’t give refunds for anything. If you are asked to leave for not following the rules, you get nothing. If the pool is closed down for some reason during the day, you get a rain check – a pass to come back for free another day.

  58. Scott July 11, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Want this to change? Change liability laws; and waivers and disclaimers generally aren’t all that protective. They’ll protect an organization from getting sued over little stuff, because it won’t be worth it to the lawyers to take the case; but something major? Yeah, strict liability laws will chew up those signed documents and spit them out.

    Yes, it is CYA. And yes, it may not be universal, yet.

  59. Another Jennifer July 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    To those who asked if my kids learned how to swim- my kids are teenagers now, and they have been swimming in the pool PFD-free for several years. Up until a few years ago I had my son wear a PFD at the lake and ocean, but not because of his poor swimming skills; I wasn’t comfortable with his ability to make good judgments about depths and distance. I just don’t see this as unreasonable. If they required all swimmers to wear PFD’s regardless of swimming ability, that might be unreasonable- but swimming half the length of a pool is not an unreasonable test. But as I said before, I’ve worked drowning recovery, so that certainly would color my personal views on the subject.

  60. Dot Collins July 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    I’ve been a swim coach and instructor for 15 years; and I can assure you, it’s hard to learn to swim in a life jacket. The best way to get kids to swim is to give them time in the pool; with a competent adult in the water but not on top of them (just close enough to assist if sinking occurs). Unused this method with my own kids, and both swam before they were 3. I did let the younger one use a life jacket when she would play in the handicap ramp while I was coaching, before she was really competent, just because I was really watching my athletes and she was well still a toddler. The other coaches kids played this way too; and all pretty much taught themselves to swim. People now marvel at how my kids are so competent in the water (they are now 6 and 10) and I point out “well I let them swim- a lot and they figured it out mostly on their own.” People are horrified at this “risk” apparently….

  61. Emily July 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    @Warren and Donna–Okay, maybe the YMCA wouldn’t give refunds for swimming passes for that day, but the swim-in could work if people demanded refunds for their memberships if they got kicked out of the pool over using their own judgement as parents, and attempting to teach their kids to swim properly instead of stifling them in life jackets–which might as well be straitjackets. Does this rule have any leeway for kids who ARE enrolled in (lower-level) swimming lessons, but aren’t yet able to swim the length of the swim test, and want to practice on their own time, which was encouraged when I was that age? Also, our submitter, Krista, mentioned that the rule only goes up to age eleven. Well, do the people at the YMCA really think that an ten-year-old who’s been forced to wear a life jacket in the pool since birth, will magically be able to swim on his or her eleventh birthday? Of course not.

    I tend to agree with the previous posters who say that this policy is a ploy to get parents to put their kids in swimming lessons, but since the YMCA is a charitable organization that provides membership assistance, and at some YMCA’s, basic swimming lessons don’t cost extra, their motivation can’t be money. Maybe it’s another CYA insurance thing, so if something goes wrong, they can say, “It wasn’t our fault that Jimmy drowned!!! WE taught him to swim!!!” Then, all they have to do is pull up Jimmy’s swim records, from Splashers or Otter to his most recently completed swim level (Dolphin and up would probably pass the swim test), and match that to the swim test requirements. Then, they’d be able to say that they did “everything that they could,” and it must have been Jimmy’s fault for doing something he shouldn’t, or Jimmy’s parents’ fault for not supervising him adequately, but not their fault.

    @Warren–I’m not sure that “just scooping it out” in the case of a child having a #2 accident is the best course of action. At every pool I’ve ever been to, the routine for that kind of thing (feces, vomit, or a wayward feminine hygiene product), has been to evacuate the pool, remove the solid matter from the pool, and then shock the pool with chlorine to decontaminate it. Yes, it was a pain having the pool closed for a day or two, especially in the heat of the summer, and yes, it was a pain to have to swim in overly-chlorinated water upon re-opening, but it was better than making people sick. I know that it might sound excessive to you, but I think that that policy makes sense, because a lot of the time, the symptoms of stomach flu can appear suddenly, and can you imagine that happening in a swimming pool? Parents take child swimming, child has tummy trouble and either throws up or gets diarrhea in the pool, lifeguards just scoop out the mess and let everyone back in the pool, then other people get stomach flu as well, and spread it to others. It’s not an uncommon occurrence either–I once got stomach flu at a movie theatre when I was ten. I got home in time, but I went from feeling fine to feeling completely nauseated in just a few minutes. To this day, I can’t even watch The Babysitters’ Club Movie without feeling a little queasy, because that’s the movie I was watching when it happened.

  62. Sarah in WA July 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Our city pool has a similar rule, but just to age 7. However, I’ve let my 5-year-old do open swims and have not gotten in the water with him (so I’m obviously not in “arm’s reach”), but no one has said anything to me. He’s been in swim lessons since he was three and is very confident in the water. I like to think that the lifeguards can see that he’s fine so it hasn’t been an issue.

    Whatever happened to taking things on a case-by-case basis? Maybe it’s easier for a city pool to do that since they’re not part of a huge network like the Y is.

    Side note: When did the Y get so freakin’ expensive?? I swear it was reasonable–even cheap–when I was a kid. Friends have tried to get me to join, but looking at membership fees plus the added cost of lessons, it would make us go broke!

  63. Kerry July 11, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    This sounds like a risk management policy (protect against lawsuit). I would look at area school’s public swim options as an alternative to consider. Many high schools open their pools up to the public. YMCA is great, but expensive. If they are this overprotective / overly restrictive at yours (mine wasn’t) and won’t change their policy in response to your request, let your checkbook do the talking. They may be more inclined to listen if membership suffers as a result of this silly / counterproductive policy.

  64. Emily July 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    @Sarah–It seems like your city pool has the right idea by allowing your son, as a competent swimmer, to swim semi-independently, even if he is only five years old. That’s why I think the cut-off for swimming in the deep end without a life jacket (or even at all) should be based on swimming ability rather than age. Also, the rule shouldn’t be “pass the swim test or wear a life jacket,” but rather, “pass the swim test or stay in the shallow end.” That way, kids would be able to practice in the shallow end until they COULD pass the swim test. Putting non-swimmers in life jackets isn’t conducive to that, and actually, neither is the term “non-swimmer,” because “non-swimmers” become “swimmers” by practicing swimming. So, instead of “non-swimmer,” I think the term “pre-swimmer,” or “emerging swimmer,” or “swimmer-in-training” would be better. This isn’t a self-esteem thing either, because the swim test would distinguish those allowed in the deep end from those restricted to the shallow end (or, shallow end unassisted/deep end with PFD, depending on facility rules). Instead, it’s a collective consciousness thing–by changing the terms, we’d be helping people to understand that the transition from “non-swimmer” to “swimmer” is, indeed, a transition, and it takes practice.

    Also, I find this thread particularly interesting, because last summer, I remember that there was an article about a swimming pool that had a band test for the deep end (common practice–my summer camp did it too), and any child who didn’t pass was confined to the shallow end. Well, parents complained because this was hurting their kids’ self-esteem, to the point that one parent pitched a fit when their kids’ friends, who’d passed the test, swam in the deep end without their kids, who hadn’t. The kids hadn’t failed the test; they’d just refused to try, for fear of failing. Other parents of kids who’d failed the band test actually argued with the lifeguards, and tried to get them to change their minds, again, out of fear for their kids’ self-esteem. Now it seems like the pendulum has swung the other way, and people are keeping kids life-jacketed for so long, out of fear for their safety, that they’re not developing any real self-esteem by actually learning to swim…..and yes, swimming lessons help, but they’re not always feasible, financially or logistically, and even if they are, they work best if kids are allowed to practice on their own.

  65. Krista July 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I am so grateful for your responses! Thank you! This policy was definitely handed down to my local branch as a result of a local consolidation. I am looking into alternative facilities, but there are numerous reasons that’s tricky (price, location, hours of operation and more). I am in talks with the local staff and have now tried to get other members to write letters. I have paid for swim lessons and will continue to do so. But I’d also like my son to have some fun in the water in addition to the lessons–you know, like he did up until this new policy.

    Thanks for the support!

  66. TRS July 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    All kids should get swim lessons. Period. I do disagree with the stringent rules of this pool. I think if the parent is with them in an area they can not touch actively teaching them how to swim then that should be fine.

    I have 3 daughters – one is a highly competitive swimmer – she swims 5 days a week – 2 hour practices and sometimes she will do two practices a day (all year round). My 8 yo practices 3 days a week. My non swimmer did swim team for two years at our summer pool – basically to make her a stronger swimmer so she would not drown.

    If you really want to give your child a true free range experience – give them the gift of strong swim skills and pay for the lessons.

    I took all three of my daughters open ocean snorkeling last summer. My really strong swimmer poo pooed the life jacket rule and let all the air out in hers. She was off. I caught glimpses of her free diving down to the coral to get a better look at fish hiding. I saw her swimming after a barracuda. She looked like a mermaid. What a beautiful gift she has. It was like she had gills and had a very special experience. My then 7 yo had a great time and had no fear. Me and my non swimmer floated on top and lived vicariously through my daughter that must have been a fish in another life.

  67. TRS July 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    We belong to a Swim and Tennis Club during the Summer. There is a 3 foot pool that a parent just needs to be on the deck for. The big pool there are 3 areas. one is 3/5 ft. -4ft deep, then there are the lanes, and then the diving well. You have to be able to pass a test to get in the diving well. Other than that it is parental choice.

    What I love about our pool. If your child is 12 and above – you can just drop them off and go. I see a ton of kids in the neighborhood that ride their bikes there. I have to be at the club if my 8 yo is there but not on top of her.

    They have a swim team and all that is required to be on it is to swim 25 meters. The little ones that can’t join a mini team that is more hands on and will teach them how to swim. The cost to join the team is only $50 and that is for 2 months.

    My daughters’ year round swim team club costs me 4K a year but she is a serious swimmer. She is fit and strong – worth every penny.

  68. Gina July 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Say WHAT??? I’m speechless.

  69. bobca July 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Crazy, of course. The Boy Scouts have their own example of this insanity. All scouts must be tested each year for swimming capability, even if they have earned the swimming merit badge, and/or have been swimming for many years. My high school son who used to be on the swim team needs to take this each in order to participate in any activities that include water.

  70. Katie July 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Although I disagree with these policies, not to mention additionally the death of the diving board which I find really annoying, I can tell you this. It come down to liability and the problem and why you are getting these policies is when the unfortunate happens the parents in too many cases choose to sue for millions of dollars.

    For example, at Lifetime Fitness in Centreville, VA a 5 year old tragically drowned. The pool gets crowded and the life guards did not see her go under and the parents were in the hot tub not in site of the pool.

    The parents turned around though and sued the gym for millions of dollars. Often in these cases the risk is so high that those being sued pay out a partial sum in order to avoid the risk of paying even more.

  71. Emily July 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    @Bobca–My old summer camp (Camp Kitchikewana on Beausoleil Island in the Georgian Bay Islands National Park) has a similar rule. Every camper, from the littlest kids up through Leadership, does a swimming test on the first day of camp (or the second, if the first day is thundering and lightning, which has happened). Anyway, I went to that camp from age 10 through 16, and passed every year. The test isn’t that hard; it’s just 75 metres, from the outside edge of the docked-in swimming area to the boating area. It’s since been changed, from open water to within the swimming area, but it’s the same distance. Some kids didn’t pass, and they were encouraged to practice and re-take the test at any time during the session, as many times as they wanted. When someone passed the test partway through the session, they’d get to move a green peg down one notch in a giant wooden thermometer we had in the dining hall, at the next meal. The test was called “Go for Green,” and it was divided into three categories–Green meant you could use the swimming and boating areas with no restrictions, Yellow meant you had to be watched a bit more closely (not sure about the specifics, because hardly anyone got Yellow), and Red meant you could only go swimming or boating with a counsellor, and had to wear a life jacket in the deep end of the swimming area. Anyway, after my first summer or two, Go for Green stopped being a true “test” of swimming ability, and it became more of a charming first-day-of-camp ritual, much like opening campfire.

  72. Katie July 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    @Emily, actually as far as I’m concerned the policies regarding a little vomit, feces, or a female product aren’t good. In fact, the extra chlorine is probably much more of a health hazard as a lot of people are intolerant/allergic to it.

    Additionally, I’ve swam in open water many times with fish and probably other animal poop and who knows what else and never gotten sick from it. Germs are everywhere even in our own bodies. The belief that someone how we can and should get rid of them is basically are marketing gimick that American’s have bought whole heartedly.

  73. Papilio July 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Really – kids drown more easily *with* water wings?
    What were my parents+swimming teachers+life guards thinking?? It’s a miracle I still have a pulse!

  74. Emily July 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    @Katie–Maybe you’re right, and maybe the difference is purely psychological. I think the reasoning behind the “shock the pool” policies is the fact that people mostly consider swimming pools to be cleaner than natural bodies of water, and therefore, it bothers them less to swim in a large lake or ocean, that has microscopic, invisible particles of fish feces in it, than a smaller, self-contained swimming pool with large, VISIBLE chunks of human feces (or vomit) in it.

  75. Cherub Mamma July 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Those rules seem so incredibly over the top. I was floored when we moved to where we live now and found similar rules at our local pool. So floored that I won’t take my kiddos to the pool for free swim anymore.

    I compare that experience to what was available to us 10 years ago when we lived elsewhere. My son was 6 years old and couldn’t even ride his bike without training wheels. Still, we let him take his bike up to the local rec center and sign himself in (alone). He’d go swimming for the afternoon and then pedal himself home (maybe about a mile or so). Lifeguards were there to keep kids safe and no one ever said boo about my child coming and going on his own accord.

    I had no idea how free range I was until those options no longer even existed for me.

  76. Leigh July 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Another Jennifer, the question was, were your children able to learn to swim WHILE wearing PFDs? The answer is probably no. This policy by the Y does not provide for children to practice swimming! How can you learn to swim WHILE you are wearing a PFD? You CAN’T. There is room for debate whether non-swimmers should have to wear a PFD if there’s no adult working with them. But this Y has decided that even if the parent is right there TEACHING THE KID TO SWIM, that’s now allowed! How is that reasonable? If you have worked drownings, surely you came to respect that people ought to learn how to swim?

  77. Katie July 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    @JT While an interesting idea in theory, in practicality the problem is that for a law suit to be successful you have to be able to prove losses which in a case where somebody dies usually comes from lost productivity. Since the kids haven’t drowned you don’t have a lawsuit because a kid might drown as might doesn’t equal loses. One however, might be able to have a class action lawsuit suing to get their dues back, however most likely when agreeing to join you agreed to follow whatever rules the gym imposes so that probably won’t fly either. Probably the best thing you can do is cancel your membership and while doing so clearly state this policy as the reason.

  78. Emily July 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    >>One however, might be able to have a class action lawsuit suing to get their dues back, however most likely when agreeing to join you agreed to follow whatever rules the gym imposes so that probably won’t fly either.<<

    @Katie–There might be some wiggle room there, because the YMCA didn't have those rules when Krista registered for a membership for her family–they changed the rules after she signed up, and she said herself that she probably wouldn't have joined the YMCA if those conditions had applied when she did.

  79. K July 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    We belong to the Y. The pool we spend most of the time at has a shallow entry end ( less than one foot) and the deep end is four feet in one corner and five feet in the lap lanes. Kids under 11 have to have a parent present. Kids 7 and under have to have a parent in the water with them. My daughter is six. I usually sit on th steps and watch her and the lifeguards are fine with that. My eight year old son had to pass the deep water test to go in the other end, even though he can stand with his feet on the bottom and his head wayyyyy above the water. He had to swim one length of the pool without stopping and then jump in and tread water for 30 seconds. At the pool with the water slide and eight feet deep, it goes up to one minute.

    He also swims laps, although technically the rules say members have to be 16 to participate in lap swim. Again, the lifeguards said nothing.

    The idea of a life jacket in a shallow entry pool is insane. The whole reason we go there is so my daughter can practice her swimming yet know she can put her feet down and stand up if she needs to. This has helped her confidence immensely and her swimming has really improved. Hopefully my Y will not adopt these policies!

  80. Katie July 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm #


    Most likely there is a clause in the contract saying something to the effect of they change the rules if they want. That being said Krista would need to read the contract and see if this is in there.

    They still might be willing to refund the dues or a part of them because it is good customer service and good for public relations.

  81. Warren July 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm #


    When we worked at the town pools, water wings were not allowed. They are toys and not PFD’s. The big problem is people think of them as PFD’s, and get too relaxed. Kids get to confident with them. They slide off, and they only support the arms. While supporting the arms they interfere with the movement of the arms. They serve absolutely no good whatsoever, and cause certain risks.

    The town pools completely cycled, filtered and treated the pool’s entire volume of water every 2 hrs. Chlorine is automatically added into the system 24hrs a day, to keep the level where needed.
    Vomit, and excessive blood, would cause the close of a session, but not the entire day.
    If you got the flu, planters warts or anything it would be contracted from the changerooms, not the pool.

  82. Emily July 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    @Katie–Maybe they do have that “we can change the rules” clause, but there have to be limits on it. I mean, taken to extremes, Krista could sign up for a YMCA membership on Monday, and be told that it includes gym and pool access, exercise classes, swimming lessons up to a certain level (our YMCA has them for kids and for adults, but the adult program is much more informal), and also a free wellness coaching session. That’s what you get at our YMCA, so I’m using it as an example. Anyway, under those rules, the YMCA could promise all of those things on Monday, revoke all or most of them on Tuesday (by closing the pool until further notice, cancelling classes, or even just through inaction, by setting up overly restrictive rules, or by letting exercise machines break and not fixing them), and then tell Krista that she isn’t entitled to a refund, because she signed the contract. I know that this isn’t common, but I’ve experienced university gyms that drag their heels on fixing anything, because the students have already paid, and they have no incentive to do so, and who rent the pools out to community groups during peak times of the year, and then tell paying students/members they’re out of luck when they want to swim, and all kinds of shady stuff. Also, the gym at the University of Wollongong doesn’t even let you cancel your membership if you get the monthly fee option–instead, you have to pay for the rest of the year, then just HOPE you can find someone else to sell your membership to. It’s incredibly sketchy, it’s outlined in VERY fine print, and it really punishes those who can’t afford to pay $600 or $700 all in one go.

  83. Katie July 11, 2013 at 3:27 pm #


    I’ve actually seen all the situations you’ve pointed out (closing the pool until further notice, cancelling classes, or even just through inaction, by setting up overly restrictive rules, or by letting exercise machines break and not fixing them) occur at gyms.

    From a moral perspective I agree it’s unfair, from a legal perspective I’m telling you there isn’t really much your going to do about it. All you can do is 1. cancel your membership 2. Ask for a refund or to be able to cancel early. 3. Threaten to write negative reviews and/or contact the media.

    Prior to signing the contract you can ask to have specific items removed or changed, which when your dealing with a large chain gym probably will not be honored.

  84. Jen July 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Just to “piggyback” on this (which is absolutely ludicrous) – the public pools in my area don’t allow our children to piggyback on us IN the pool. I was literally under water up to my neck, with my 10yo on my back and they told me she had to get off. What is the safety issue here???

  85. Anna July 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    “Kids must wear a life jacket”? Right. Buy an inflatable one. Then wear it DEFLATED Does the rule says “a working life jacket”? No? So…If they make stupid rules, read them in a stupid way.
    Do you have to stay in the pool to watch your son to be safe? Stay in the pool with him and knit or crochet (if you feel he doesn’t need your help and your’re there just to follow a rule). Show the pool crew that you feel these rules are stupid. Maybe they will think about it.

  86. Jill July 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Read this article….drownings happen in a blink of an eye!You can never be too safe! When I was a little girl you used to be able to sit in a car with no car seat….no seat belt….but things change.

  87. Jill July 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Read this article….drownings happen in a blink of an eye!You can never be too safe! When I was a little girl you used to be able to sit in a car with no car seat….no seat belt….but things change.


  88. Emily July 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    @Katie–Are you a lawyer? I’m not, but my parents are both lawyers, I’ve worked at a few different law firms, and I’ve picked up a fair bit by osmosis. Anyway, you seem to be pretty well-versed in all things legal. So, what are people to do when they’re stuck at a gym that doesn’t deliver what it promised, and won’t refund their money or allow them to cancel their memberships early, and isn’t bothered by threats of bad reviews or contacting the media because “nobody else has a problem with this?” That’s what happened at UOW.

  89. Melissa July 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    We’re in Fla where just about every kid learns to swim by 3 or 4, just out of survival with all the water we have around. Kids who can’t swim are considered a danger to themselves and other children around them.

    We found that the Y was a terrible place for swimming lessons too. They had a “we won’t force anything” policy – and hello a 3 or 4 year old is going to cry when you dunk them! If they cried they got put on the side of the pool to calm down – in 10 minutes the whole class was crying. $100 down the drain.

    I found our city pools used a program called Gus and Goldie (named for fish) and they could care less if the kids cried. They took them out in the water away from the walls and let go and the kids learned. They also insisted the kids jump off the 1 meter diving board. In 4 days (one hour each lesson) every kid in the class was swimming like fish and confident enough to jump off the board. Swimming isn’t one of those things you teach passively to little kids – your force them to do it and then they learn.

    Having them float around in life jackets is just plain dangerous to all.

  90. S July 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    2 things.

    1. My husband learned to swim when he was 22 because I took him to our college pool during free swim and taught him how. His parents don’t like swimming and never took him. We stayed in the shallow end right under the lifeguards nose until he was comfortable enough to go into the deep end. How else would anyone learn? Should adults have to wear life jackets too?

    2. I love VT. There is a state park nearby that has public swimming, no lifeguards, and no warning signs about swimming at your own risk. It’s awesome. We simply do not go out over our heads. I got a cramp once while swimming and definitely would have drowned if my mouth hadn’t been 2 mm above the water line when I sank like a rock. Stayed that way for at least 5 minutes because my limbs would move again. No one noticed 🙁

  91. Sharon July 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I “piggybacked” my 11 year old in our condo pool and then she “piggybacked me.” It was a lot of fun in a very hot day in Maryland.

    I taught my daughter how to swim at age 6 I was pulling my hair out today she does fine, Never used a floatie or noodle. Last week she was watching a four year old whose mother left the pool and aunt who didn’t want to come in a mess up her hair.

  92. Emily July 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    @Jill–Maybe you can “never be too safe,” but forcing children to wear life jackets in the pool, and making it impossible for them to practice swimming, isn’t “safe,” it’s stupid and short-sighted. The life jacket rule ends at the age of eleven at Krista’s pool, seven at Sarah’s pool, or whatever age at whatever pool–my point is, it doesn’t last forever. So, what happens when the child gets to the “magic age,” and still can’t swim, because they haven’t been allowed to develop their swimming skills in the relatively safe environment of an enclosed, lifeguarded pool? I think that, at some point, you CAN be “too safe.” “Too safe” happens when “safety” becomes the be all, end all concern, at the expense of allowing kids to develop and learn new skills, parents to make parenting decisions, and people to live life in any meaningful sense without worrying about being kicked out of the YMCA pool for teaching their child to swim, or ratted out to the Children’s Aid Society or similar for letting their children play outside unsupervised, or background-checked within an inch of their lives and treated like criminals upon applying to become a Girl Guide leader. I know people say that “if it saves just one child, then it’s worth it,” but for every “one child” that rules and policies like this saves, there are many, many more children who are being robbed of important childhood experiences–learning to swim, playing outside, riding their bikes to the corner store to get Popsicles, joining a group like Scouts or Guides (because there aren’t enough “perfect” adults to meet the demand for leaders), making s’mores or going on hiking/camping/canoe trips once they get into one of these groups (because those activities require miles of red tape), learning to do cartwheels on the playground, and hang upside down on the monkey bars, and so on. The saddest thing is, a lot of kids don’t even know what they’re missing, because to them, it’s normal to live a sanitized, supervised, “safe” life, where they’re shuttled from one organized activity to the next, and in between, parked in front of a screen, or handed an iPhone as a constant electronic companion so they don’t have to go outside and interact with others. There’s a reason why childhood obesity is at an all-time high, and there’s a reason why more kids these days are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and other learning disabilities and mental health issues, and I’m not going to blame the safety craze entirely for it, but a lot of people before me, who are much smarter than me, have found links between the two, and I’ve seen empirical evidence of it too. For example, when working with kids, the best way to get them to focus for an hour, is to allow them to have some free active play time beforehand, preferably outside. As for water safety, the best way to prevent drowning, is to teach kids to swim. It’s also great exercise, and a real boost for self-esteem as well, especially since a lot of kids who aren’t good at traditional team sports, can be good at swimming. I know this, because I was one. However, we’ll never know if we never let kids take off their life jackets.

  93. Papilio July 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    @Warren. Ah.
    The psychology part reminds me of bike helmets – except for the toy part then.

    Someone actually mentioned teaching how to swim as safety measure in the comments on a very recent post… Kind of ironic that exactly that is now the issue.

  94. Emily July 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    @Melissa–Our YMCA doesn’t dunk kids in the water either, but they don’t just give up on them. I learned (and later, helped teach) this particular skill through a game called “Ring Around The Hot Dog.” It’s basically the same as Ring Around the Rosy, except it involves “diving for pickles” at the end. Other methods include challenging kids to dive for rings, pennies, or diving sticks. In fact, our Y recently did a “Toonie Dive,” wherein they scattered change on the bottom of the pool, and kids would recover it, and it’d be donated to the “Strong Kids” campaign to fund memberships and day camp for less fortunate children. Floating is taught first assisted (wall, instructor’s hands, kickboard), and then independently, and everything’s done in a really fun and welcoming manner, so that kids WANT to join in, even if they didn’t feel that way when they arrived. Also, in the preschool swimming lessons, kids don’t get just one badge at the end of the session; they get a sticker for each skill they master, featuring a picture of a stylized cartoon character (depending on their level) doing that skill. So, instead of a random gold star, they get a picture of a bubble man (in Bubblers) floating and kicking his feet, for example. That way, if all else fails, the instructor doesn’t have to say, “You have to do this,” or force an unwilling child underwater, but they can say, “If you don’t do this, you won’t get your sticker.” Preschool kids are highly motivated by stickers, so it usually works.

  95. anonymous this time July 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    No time right now to read everyone, but just like the other draconian “rules” in the name of safety (background checks for parents who read to kids in the classroom comes to mind), can we come up with stats for just how many children actually drown at a public pool that is festooned with lifeguards?

    Seriously. Like all those kids who fall prey to the chaperones who come along on the museum visit. I grew up living at the public pool as a kid, I do think there was a swim test in order to use the diving boards, but there were no rules about using the 3′ – 7′ depths of the pool. And there was only one lifeguard. These days, looked like at least three supervising the same area.

    I worked like hell to learn to swim because I wanted to use the diving boards. Imagine my dismay if I’d been zipped into a PFD and told I couldn’t. Blah, I say.

  96. Susan July 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    15 years ago our Y would not let me use one of those inflated rings with the “seat” for my son to sit in. I could only use a styrofoam-type ring. The reason was that the inflated one “might deflate”. This despite the fact that I was hardly going to leave my infant floating in the ring without being right beside him. We’re about to drop our Y membership because they’re so condescending and “we know best” that it drives us nuts. And even with all their rules, kids still come from all over the county to poop in their pool and then they are closed for 8 hours!

  97. Linda Wightman July 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Our kids learned to swim as babies at a YMCA in wintry upstate New York, because back then they had a wonderful program in which the instructors coached the parents in teaching their children, and we thought it would be a fun thing to do together. If you have the patience, it is easier and more fun to teach a baby to swim than a three-year-old, because he hasn’t yet lost his love of the water and his breath-holding instincts.

    Little did we know then that we would soon be moving to Florida, where we were very grateful for their swimming skills. Back then, too, the local pool had no problem with letting our preschool water bugs swim unaccompanied, in the deep end, and even use the three-meter diving board. Now it doesn’t have any diving board at all. 🙁

    Really, are kids so much more fragile these days? If so, we’ve done it to them.

    If you’re not careful, your kids won’t live to grow up; if you’re too careful, they won’t grow up to live.

  98. CrazyCatLady July 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Can you forgo the swim test and just swim in the shallow end? Or, if you have to do it….do it EVERY time that you come. In fact, try to do it multiple times, just so that your child can get the practice. Really, this is not a safe way to do it, because it distracts the lifeguard, but it sounds like the only way to do it.

    When we lived in CA, we went to the public pool one time per week. They wouldn’t let you have toys – you had to come to the tot swim – which my oldest couldn’t get in the water and the drive time was longer than the swim time. One time we were the only ones in the pool, because it was cold, and they told us we couldn’t throw hairbands for the kids to get. I tried to argue about learning to swim under water, but it was no use. We pretty much stopped going to the pool, especially as they wouldn’t let me nurse my youngest on deck while my very active and prone to running middle was in the pool. Try to help them…nah, the are “just following the rules.” No matter if the rules are stupid or not.

  99. Gina July 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    @Jill: This is a pet peeve of mine. I live in Scottsdale, AZ, where child drownings are CONSTANT. BUT if one person is assigned to watch any child that can’t swim, the odds go down immeasurably. A lot of adults is not safety…one adult who is WATCHING is safety. This child didn’t have to drown and it is the fault of any adult who was supposed to be supervising her that she did.
    The requirement to wear a lifejacket in a YMCA pool with a parent in the water is ridiculous. Had Joanie been in the water with a parent who was WATCHING her, she wouldn’t have drowned..with or without a lifejacket and the lifejacket itself prevents a child from learning to swim and resurface.
    No, you can’t be too careful when it comes to kids and water…but being the WRONG kind of careful is useless.

  100. Caleb July 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I run a childcare on a farm in New Hampshire where we stress allowing children to run free. We have a pond and also a flood control reservoir we pass every day. Because the kids like to splash along the shores and catch frogs, we had to have the water tested. I was amazed the water tested cleaner than most reservoirs of drinking water, (especially because I have farm animals and imagined e coli bacteria must show up.)

    At the very time we were being so careful a child went missing in Boston, and after three days came to the surface of a public pool which had been constantly used all three days. That’s how murky their water was.

    That being said, I stress it is no joke to be in charge of non-swimming children near water. (The water-safety films they make us watch are enough to make you ban water altogether.) You must be constantly vigilant.

    I once saw a four-year-old boy sliding down a slippery and smooth rock along a shore, deeper and deeper. He panicked, and even before he was knee deep his face was going under as he floundered. My brain said, “Houston, we have a problem,” and I began dashing to the scene.

    By the time he’d slid to thigh deep he was under water more than half the time. He simple couldn’t regain his footing. He couldn’t even cry out, he was so choked with water. At this point he flopped desperately over onto his back, which made everything worse.

    At this point, just as I neared the scene, a seven-year-old girl calmly walked to him and took his hand, pulled him to his feet, and led him to shore. She was the sort of girl who moans and groans and whines and gets hysterical about everything under the sun, but this one time she was as cool as a cucumber, and calm and loving, and did everything right.

    While this might seem to show how free-range-kids can take care of themselves, it also shows you how a non-swimmer can panic and drown themselves in water that isn’t even waist deep.

    Never, never leave a non-swimmer toddler or little child unattended by water.

    Loving children means caring for them, and that is very different from banning all activity, or even drugging them so they don’t cause you to care.


  101. Lisa July 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Have you noticed that most of these rules are on paper only? If it were me, I’d go the route of cheerful disobedience and get in the pool with your child but don’t put the vest on. Odds are they aren’t going to say anything to you.

    Once he’s proficient enough then get the test so he can enjoy swimming freely.

  102. Nicole July 11, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I have to add my 2 cents here. I worked for a few Y’s across the country as a program coordinator/director. I actually personally know 2 families that were involved with drownings in Y pools at parties, with lifeguards. The rule is a bit excessive, but maybe someone with some clout (like someone on the Board) has heard one of these stories. The rationale is ALWAYS about liability. I was trained to constantly think about risk management!

    Personally, I think that kids should pass a swim test to swim in the deep end, but stay in the shallow end until they pass the test. Younger kids should have a parent in the water. I’m pretty free range, but I also recognize a need for water safety.

  103. pentamom July 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    “Have you noticed that most of these rules are on paper only? If it were me, I’d go the route of cheerful disobedience and get in the pool with your child but don’t put the vest on. Odds are they aren’t going to say anything to you. ”

    Maybe this is the effect of having fewer, more sensible rules, but at our Y, if you are not following the rules, or appear like it’s possible you’re not following them (say your kid looks like he is probably be below the minimum age for something, a big problem in our family) you WILL be — politely — spoken to about it. (They are always very nice about it, always asking first IF the child is of a certain age.) But I guess that’s always the way — when the rules get more complex and more trivial, no one wants to enforce them all, possibly because the people who are supposed to enforce them don’t internalize them as necessary to enforce, because they’re NOT actually necessary for good order or safety.

  104. Yan Seiner July 11, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Life guards cost money. Our local pool has a reputation for the best life guards (I know, my daughter is one) and they have 4 fully certified life guards on deck at all times.That’s a lot of $.

    So perhaps this is an attempt by the Y to cut the number of life guards on duty and save some $?

    I agree, though – it makes no sense. Kids don’t learn to talk with ear muffs on and they don’t learn to swim with life jackets on.

    Look around at some of the swim teams and clubs in your area. Many clubs have “slush funds” for families who have lots of kids and can’t afford to pay for all of them. Our club does; we also have buckets of swimsuits that other kids have outgrown for free, and will reduce/eliminate fees for kids and parents who volunteer time. So it’s possible to have quality swim lessons without going broke. And without life jackets.

  105. Jenny Islander July 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    @Yan Seiner: At our community pool, it is well publicized that you must show up the minute open swim starts because they only allow X number of swimmers per lifeguard and when the limit is reached, that–is–it. It seems like a sensible rule to me. Also, even in Alaska, it only costs a dollar to go to open swim.

    Oh, and the only rules regarding children and safety are that anybody under 8 years old must have a responsible adult on hand, nobody is allowed to stand on floaty things, and if the lifeguard tells you to quit doing what you’re doing, you have to quit it or leave.

  106. Taradlion July 11, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    This is my greatest “safety” pet peeve. Swimming is often the analogy I use for Free Range parenting. It takes work on the part of a parent to supervise non-swimmers appropriately while they are learning to swim. Non-swimming kids (babies/toddlers) need to be exposed to water, where they can stand and learn to float. Patents need to be more vigilant than a parent supervising a kid with a floatation device.

    The only “floaties” that are safe FOR PLAY are ones kids hold on to (kick boards or noodles that are not “attached”) . Most floaties hold kids in the wrong plane to swim (water wings hold the upper arm on the surface of the water). Floaties that attach give parents a false sense of security. They give kids no sense of their own skills/limitations. At least if the kid is holding on, they won’t forget they don’t have it. Kids cannot learn to be buoyant with a life jacket or floatie.

    Ultimately, the safest kids around water are the ones that can swim. Safety measures such as helmets or seat belts do NOT impede learning skills. It is not the same thing. Keeping a kid safe with a life jacket or other floatie for swimming protects them only for that moment. Unless they are going to wear a life jacket at all times, they are less safe around water.

    Life jackets are intended for waterfront activities such as boating or water skiing, not swimming.

  107. Yan Seiner July 11, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    @Jenny Islander: Can you contact me via email about Alaska? yan (at) seiner . com – thanks.

  108. Warren July 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    At the town pools I worked at the number of lifeguards on duty was an easy calculation. The Royal Life Saving Society of Canada had guidelines and recomendations, as to the number of lifeguards on deck, to the number of swimmers. The town made sure that there was enough lifeguards on staff to cover the max capacity of the pool.

    You could put all the swimmers in PFDs, and that would not change the number of lifeguards on deck.

    As for learning to swim, it should be a part of grade school phys ed, where it at all possible. Swimming isn’t the skill needed. Being relaxed, comfortable if not confident around water is what will save your life.

    People that panic drown more often then people who do not panic. That is a fact. People that panic can cause the stongest of swimmer to drown, while attempting to rescue them. Another fact.

    If you have taken some form of swim instruction, to the point where water is enjoyable, and you are confident in and around it…..chances are you will not panic in an emergency.

  109. Steve July 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    PFD? The town where I learned to swim had a municipal pool and didn’t allow them. Took Red Cross swimming lessons there and almost failed the first year because I couldn’t float on my back.

  110. SKL July 11, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Wow, where we live, kids are not allowed to wear life jackets in the pool, except during water safety training. It’s unsafe and developmentally unsound.

    And to think I got ticked off when the lifeguard told me all kids under 10 needed to be accompanied *in* the pool. I found that so ridiculous that I went and complained to the management. They talked it over among themselves and decided the policy had been misinterpreted. The new rule was that kids under 6 had to be supervised *in* the pool. I still didn’t like it (my kids could swim), but I sucked it up for a couple of months until my youngest turned 6. I would roll up my jeans and walk back and forth in the far end of the shallow water while the kids played.

  111. from Alberta, Canada July 12, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    There are scientists who study the effects of Avoidance of risk on Risk:

    Using a life jacket is avoidance of risk today, which results in huge increase in risk tomorrow.
    For this reason, I do not allow my 2nd child to wear a life jacket (unless boating, tubing, waterskiing, etc..).

    With my first child, for convenience sake and due to not thinking this through too well ahead of time, we did use lifejackets when he was 3. One day he did not realize he was not wearing it, nonetheless he bolted for the deep waters well ahead of me and out of my sight.
    But the real issue was not this particular incident, but the general attitude of not thinking of assessing risk and that being in a life jacket was a great solution to all problems.

    Ultimately, he did start swimming before age 5 (because I made it a priority) but the struggle of convincing him to work and apply himself, and overcoming the influence practically being shouted from everywhere that nothing more is expected of him and that somehow magically he’ll swim at some later age, reminding him that it is not always wise to be like others, teaching him not to measure own responsibility against the other’s level (i.e. attitude that other kids just use life jackets, so I don’t need to swim), etc.. completely outweighed any ‘benefit’ or ‘convenience’ that we had enjoyed at the time of using the life jacket in his earlier years.

    So, with my second child, at age 2.5 I was fortunate to be able to enroll her in ISR lessons – Infant Swimming Resource. No floating devices in this program.
    They teach a survival skill – to float on back, and for older kids to do a sequence of float-on-back then swim on tummy ( with head under water) then float then swim…. The 2.5 y.o. in our stream graduated at this ‘sequence’ level.

    Now, this is a skill to have for life, and to build upon!
    And most importantly these kids now have a healthy, informed awareness of what water really is.

  112. Sarra July 12, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    I’m not sure I will be adding anything except further perspective that these policies are ridiculous.

    Our local YMCA has a similar aquatics policy, created in conjunction with their insurance company and modeled after the policies at other YMCAs. They use a three-tiered system. The children’s name and level are recorded (and looked up) in a log, and they get a nylon-paper wristband before they are allowed enter the water.

    Deep Water: Green Band Test
    A. Swim from the shallow rope divider to the shallow wall on his or her stomach maintaining a positive body position of at least 45 degrees.
    B. Jump into water over his or her head in the deep end and surface swim unassisted, while maintaining a positive body position of at least 45 degrees.
    C. Jump into water over his or her head and tread water for one minute in a vertical position with his or her whole head above water, turn on his or her back and float for 5 seconds, and then swim to the side of the pool to exit.
    “Green Band” swimmers are allowed in both the shallow and deep ends of the pool, without a PFD.

    Shallow Water: Yellow Band Test
    A. The swimmer is placed in a horizontal position on his or her back. The swimmer must then stand up (regain a vertical position).
    B. The swimmer is then placed in a horizontal position on his or her front and must again stand up (regain a vertical position).
    “Yellow Band” swimmers must stay in water that is armpit depth or less when not wearing a pfd. This includes the shallow end of the pool extending no further than the shallow end rope divider. If a “Yellow Band” swimmer wants to swim in water above his or her armpits, he or she must wear a pfd.

    Non-Swimmers: Red Band
    Swimmers that do not pass the shallow water competency test are considered “Red Band” or non-swimmers. Those who decline to take the test shall be considered non-swimmers. Red Band swimmers may only swim in the shallow section of the pool extending no further than the shallow end rope divider and, if 8 or under, require active supervision. Active supervision means that a parent/guardian/responsible person of at least 14 years of age must be in the pool water within arm’s reach at all times (1 parent/guardian/responsible person per 3 children ratio). We require all non-swimmers to wear PFDs in the pool.

    “Magically,” at the age of 14 the child is allowed access to the entire pool without limitation.

    This past school year our children were frequently allowed to go to the Y on early release days (almost every Wednesday). We have five children still at home, four of whom are school-aged. Before Winter Break last year they were: 15yo dd (Y adult), 12yo ds (Y Green/BSA Red), 10yo ds (Y Yellow/BSA White), 8yo dd (Y Red). I gave the boys’ BSA ratings as a comparison. Our girls have never been BSA tested.

    8yo dd is very petite, so while she can float, she can only touch the bottom of the pool at the very shallowest edge. She automatically fails the Yellow test, because it is administered near the dividing rope. She is “above armpit depth” as soon as she gets off the ladder! The Y policy required her to wear a PFD AND be within arms-length of my older dd at all times.

    This policy also made it extremely difficult for the boys to practice swimming before summer camp last year, because they weren’t allowed in the deep end without a PFD until they could pass the Green test. BSA Red swimmers (mid-level of the BSA three-tiered system) must be able to jump into water over their heads, resurface, and then swim 25 yds (I think – maybe it’s 50 yds) using any stroke.

  113. desiree July 12, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    I love how after not being able to learn how to swim, the day that they turn 11, they can tear off that life jacket and jump into the deep end, unaccompanied. Because, of course, there’s a magical age where you just know how to swim. This is a really ridiculous policy that is blatantly crippling for children.

  114. Ben July 12, 2013 at 7:05 am #

    My sister had a baby in April and already went swimming with him a couple of weeks ago. Now, my sister is a very strong swimmer. She has every swimming certificate going. She knows the importance of teaching your kids to swim and I have no doubt some of that skill will rub off on him.

    If schools don’t teach kids to swim, parents should — sooner rather than later.

  115. Emily July 12, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    @Sarra–Your YMCA seems a bit inflexible. Can’t they do the Yellow test closer to the shallow end, so your daughter doesn’t fail it just for being too short? Also, is the swim test a “once per visit” thing, a “once per summer” thing, or somewhere in between? Can the kids practice and retake the test until they get their Yellow or Green bands?

  116. Linda Wightman July 12, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Thank you, “from Alberta, Canada”: that is a great paper. (Not that I bothered to try to understand the math….)

  117. Jill July 12, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    You teach your children how to ride a bike with training wheels but your willing to put your non-swimming child in water without flotation? Insane!?! The “I’m teaching my kid” excuse isn’t enough in my opinion some parents probably do teach their children but lets be real…. Most use lifeguards as their child’s babysitter. Why risk it??

  118. Jill July 12, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Children can either swim or the can not swim. Safety is a very black and white subject. If they can’t swim protect them with a life jacket! They can learn most swimming skills with it on with the exception of swimming to the bottom of the pool and floating.

  119. Emily July 12, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    @Jill–The thing about teaching kids to ride bikes with training wheels is, eventually, the training wheels come off. At that point, of course the kid is going to fall a few times, but the parent is usually right there, to either catch them on the way down, patch them up when they do fall, or even confine bike-riding to the grass in the early stages, so it doesn’t hurt too much when the kid falls. However, you don’t put the training wheels back on at the first tumble. Likewise with swimming–eventually, the flotation device has to come off. If the parent is right there with the child, legitimately teaching them how to swim, or reinforcing what the child is already learning in swimming lessons, and helping the child when something goes wrong (like, if the child swallows some water or something), then the child eventually learns to swim. Leaving the life jacket on until some arbitrary age cut-off doesn’t teach swimming; it teaches helplessness. Then, when the life jacket does come off, the child still can’t swim. Even if the child is in swimming lessons, the YMCA’s policy doesn’t allow for practicing and reinforcing those skills during free time, so the child ends up needing either more lessons, or a different pool to practice at that doesn’t require life jackets–which defeats the whole purpose of belonging to the YMCA pool.

    Also, I can imagine that the swimming lesson without PFD/free swim with mandatory PFD scenario would confuse a lot of children. In swimming lessons, they’re told, “Yes, you can swim without a PFD,” but in free swim, they’re told, “No, you can’t.” This is like the Pull-Ups trap that a lot of parents fall into when they’re potty-training their kids. They put their child in underwear around the house, in the daytime, when it’s convenient for them, and then they put their child in a diaper or Pull-Up when they’re leaving the house, going somewhere in the car, at night, on holidays when they’re busy with other things, and so, the child gets mixed messages about adults’ expectations, and takes longer to be completely potty-trained and wearing underwear full-time. The life jacket rule at Krista’s YMCA is exactly like that. Again, the transition between “non-swimmer” and “swimmer” is a transition, and people need to learn to let that happen. An enclosed, lifeguarded swimming pool, with a parent right beside his or her fledgling swimmer, is probably the safest environment possible in which to let it happen.

  120. Yan Seiner July 12, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    @Jill: Nice troll attempt. But I can’t not take the bait… Most kids swim natively. They’re not afraid of the water, unless they’re taught to be. When a PFD teaches a kid that their head is always above water, and then one day they have to get their face in the water to actually swim they panic – and thus are much more likely to drown than if they never used a PFD for rec swim.

    Kids learn by stages; being able to stay afloat for a few seconds is different from swimming a mile in open water.

    The problem with a PFD is that you CANNOT learn how to swim with it on. You learn to bob. A PFD limits movement too much for any proper stroke. That’s why triathletes wear those tight-fitting wetsuits; they add buoyancy without limiting movement.

    And yes, I put my kids in the water without flotation. Worked pretty well for us. My daughter is a swim instructor and lifeguard, and my son one of the top swimmers in the state. We use PFDs when we need to – on boats, when off-shore or in potentially dangerous situations. But not in a pool. A pool in not inherently dangerous, and teaching your kids that it is is one of those “everything is dangerous” mindsets that leads to bubble wrapping your kids with disastrous results.

  121. CrazyCatLady July 12, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Jill, putting your child in water that the child can STAND in is not the same thing as throwing your child in the deep end without being able to swim.

    Sure, some preschoolers may not be able to stand in some shallow end pools and may need the parent there with them. But almost EVERY elementary child can stand in the shallow end of most every pool. They shouldn’t have to wait until Middle School to be able to actually do things like play “Ring Around the Rosie” and go under the water. As Lenore and other have pointed out, there is a time frame when such activities are done voluntarily by the kids that if they have to wait too long to do them, the opportunity is lost.

    I taught kids to swim for many years, and, like many other skills, many kids CAN teach THEMSELVES to swim if given the chance. Most want to swim with their friends in the deep end. An important part of that is learning to swim without a floatation device, and learning to swim UNDER the water. A child who cannot swim under the water is NOT a safe swimmer in my book – they WILL panic and be a danger to themselves.

    Oh, and as for parents treating the pool like a daycare? I worked at a daycare and taught the daycare kids how to swim. We had no were near one on one adult to kid in pool with the school age kids. ( 1 to 4 for preschoolers.) I never lost a child. This daycare typically had 30 school age kids a day.

  122. Emily July 12, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    >>Children can either swim or the can not swim. Safety is a very black and white subject. If they can’t swim protect them with a life jacket! They can learn most swimming skills with it on with the exception of swimming to the bottom of the pool and floating.<<

    Floating is kind of a big deal when it comes to learning to swim. If a life jacket prevents a child from learning to float (and it does, because it holds the child vertically, whereas floating is done horizontally), then it prevents a child from learning to swim. Also, safety, and swim learning, are NOT "black and white subjects." There's a whole continuum between "non-swimmer" and "swimmer," and a whole continuum between "absolute safety" and "absolute danger." "Absolute safety" would be walling a child inside in a padded room, in a straitjacket, and "absolute danger" would be, oh, I don't know, let's say jumping out of an airplane with no parachute, into a tank of sharks. Unfortunately, the idea that "safety" and "danger" are completely black and white, has compelled too many people to swing too close to the "straitjacket" end of the spectrum. Not every straitjacket is made of fabric either–when you constantly tell a child, "no, you can't swim/cross the street/walk to school alone/whatever," and I'm not going to allow you to learn," then you're putting that child in a mental straitjacket, which is even harder to remove than a physical one, because it's on the inside, and if a child is raised in a "straitjacket society," where this kind of thinking is "normal," then he or she won't even know the straitjacket is there.

  123. Leah Backus July 12, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Sorry, no-brainer here. Is the policy kind of dumb? Sure. But the solution is simple. Sign the kid up for swimming lessons. At our YMCA, that’s $20 per session. They do sliding scale for lower-income families. Water safety is absolutely non-negotiable for me. If a child doesn’t know how to swim, they need to be in a life jacket when near or in the water. This has always been the rule in our family.

    There are a lot of things that are statistically unlikely to happen to a child that people freak out about way too much. This is not one of them. Drowning is a real risk.

    Please, let’s not turn this movement into a libertarian, “we should be able to do whatever we want,” free-for-all. Sometimes, rules make sense.

  124. CrazyCatLady July 12, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    >>Children can either swim or the can not swim. Safety is a very black and white subject. If they can’t swim protect them with a life jacket! They can learn most swimming skills with it on with the exception of swimming to the bottom of the pool and floating.<<

    Spoken like an adult who has never learned how to swim.

    This is like saying a child can ride a bike or not. Actually, my daughter was riding her bike, with training wheels. Then we swung them up so they were at the same height as the axle. She was riding, but she wasn't yet safe yet because she wasn't confident. She needed time to learn to be confident.

    Swimming is the same way. Many kids learn to swim in the shallow end where they can put their feet on the bottom. They feel safe. They swim under water. But…they are scared to transfer that swimming underwater or without feet on the bottom to swimming in the deep end. It is a mental thing. They need more time to become confident.

    But, if they are in a life jacket, which by design is supposed to keep the face OUT of the water (in case the person is knocked out when falling out of the boat – what they were designed for) then the child will never learn how to properly float or swim.

  125. Maggie July 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    @Leah, I agree that drowning is a risk and that measures should be taken to keep non-swimmers safe near water. I think where we disagree is what measures are necessary. Close supervision is reasonalbe- wearing a PFD while being closely supervised is overkill. Do you feel a parent is not capable of teaching a child to swim? Children learn all sorts of skills- how to walk, how to ride a bike, how to climb the ladder for the slide at the playground- under their parents’ supervision, without having to pay an “expert” to give classes. Why do you feel swimming is different?

  126. Emily July 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    >>Sorry, no-brainer here. Is the policy kind of dumb? Sure. But the solution is simple. Sign the kid up for swimming lessons. At our YMCA, that’s $20 per session. They do sliding scale for lower-income families. Water safety is absolutely non-negotiable for me. If a child doesn’t know how to swim, they need to be in a life jacket when near or in the water. This has always been the rule in our family.<<

    Swimming lessons are only a partial solution, if the kids in the swimming lessons are still held to the "life jacket rule" during free swim. If the instructor for Aqua Quest 1, or Otter, says, "Okay, kids, get in the pool, now float on your stomach/back, and kick your feet," and then, during free swim, the lifeguard says, "You can't swim well enough to pass the swim test, so you have to wear a life jacket," then the kids get confused, and also, they have no opportunity to practice the skills from their swimming lessons. If swimming lessons are once per week (or even five days per week for two weeks in the summer, with a weekend in between), then there's time between lessons, and when I was a kid taking swimming lessons, I often used that time to practice what I'd learned in my swimming lessons.

    Besides, it's not "just $20," because that's per session, and Aqua Quest 1 or Otter won't be sufficient for most kids to pass the swimming test, because for Otter, you only have to swim 5 metres unassisted, and Aqua Quest moves even more slowly–in the first level, all the skills are assisted. So, under the YMCA levels (Otter, Seal, Dolphin, Swimmer, then Star 1-6, then Master Swimmer), the child will probably only be proficient enough to pass the swim test after completing Dolphin. So, assuming the child passes each level on the first try (which isn't likely, if the PFD rule prevents them from practicing during open swim), you're out $60 per child, because the YMCA won't let parents teach kids even basic swimming skills.

  127. Yan Seiner July 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    And… How is wearing a PFD going to help if the kid falls into a creek? Are you going to make your kids wear PFDs 24/7, just in case they slip and fall into some water?

  128. John July 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Don’t know if anyone here saw Bill O’Reilly the other day but I watch him on a regular basis and I pretty much agree with him on most issues EXCEPT with his over reactionary outlook when it comes to children. That part about him drives me nuts! This time, he was very upset at the parents of a 16 month old girl who took a video of her swimming across a pool. Bill was very upset because he thought the parents were irresponsible for not being in the water with her. He said, if something happened to that little girl, the parents would be and should be prosecuted for child neglect.

    In MY opinion, he was blowing it way out of proportion. First of all, that little girl most likely swam across that pool many many times before with her mother and/or father IN THE WATER WITH HER. So now they take a video of her swimming across the pool while they’re on the pool ledge and not in the water. IF something happened, which was highly unlikely considering she did it many times before, they are still not far away and could easily dive in after her within a couple of seconds. I could understand his point if they left her unattended but that was far from the case. They were right there on the ledge of the pool and could have gotten to her within 2 or 3 seconds. Even a child that young and small would take longer than 3 seconds to drown. But again, considering how many times she swam across that pool, the probability of her getting into trouble was extremely unlikely.

    Just more American over reaction when it comes to children.

  129. Emily July 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    P.S., I forgot to mention, it’s going to be especially confusing for kids, if the swimming instructor who tells them they can swim without PFD’s, and the lifeguard at free swim who tells them they can’t, are the same person. I’m not sure how other YMCA’s work, but at ours, it’s common for lifeguards to also teach swimming lessons–not simultaneously with lifeguarding, of course, but a lot of people work on getting lifeguarding and swimming instructor certifications around the same time. For example, I took Bronze Medallion and Assistant Swim Instructor at the same time when I was thirteen, and this was a common practice.

  130. Puzzled July 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Another Jennifer – I don’t think anyone here has a problem with you setting rules and expectations for your kids. I think the problem is we don’t want to be required to do likewise by third parties.

    Warren – I didn’t mean to malign lifeguards – heck, I spent 9 years at the ocean lifeguards, 5 years in a supervisory role. I meant to illustrate to the Y that their policies do the opposite of what is intended. Their policies malign their lifeguards by saying that the lifeguards are incompetent to deal with kids swimming. Not only is that offensive, but it opens the Y up during a lawsuit – the prosecution can bring that as evidence that the Y itself didn’t think the guards were good enough to keep the pool safe but used them anyway.

    For those who think all kids should take swimming lessons – first world, middle class thinking. I think that kids learning to swim is good, but not if it means less to eat, less needed medications, etc. Also, it leaves out the fact that parents/self can teach them to swim – which is exactly what the Y is preventing here.

    Even taking swimming lessons isn’t enough. The time during lessons is not enough time – and isn’t spent just swimming, but also listening to instruction, waiting for people to take their turns, playing a game at the end, etc. No one is ever taught anything – they teach themselves with a combination of information provided by a teacher and lots and lots of practice with supervision, correction, and mentorship. This policy denies them that last one. I doubt any kid, under these circumstances, could learn sufficiently to go from failing to passing, who wouldn’t have gotten there simply by physical maturity without lessons at all.

    Insurance companies – does no one else notice how absurd this situation is? You pay an insurance company specifically to pay claims, then they find every way to get out of it. We don’t need new liability rules – we need a complete overhaul of the insurance industry, and a return to its actual function. (When the NSA reads this, will you please it on to Warren Buffett?)

  131. SKL July 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    Having an adult closely supervising young kids is more important than having an artificial floatee on. The idea that the floatie makes kids safe around water could lead to less parental supervision, which IMO is more likely to lead to drowning.

    Based on my experience, for a child still learning to swim, it is enough to have a parent closely attending to the child, and flotation devices are not necessary. I used to take two 3yos to the pool and have them practice in water over their head (with me in the water nearby). I never came close to having an “incident.”

    It can take kids a long time (years) to learn to swim, especially if the only time they are allowed to practice is during an actual swimming lesson.

    Of course, I’m “that mom” who removed the training wheels when the kids were 3 and nowhere near able to ride on their own. Training wheels completely distort the riding experience and probably delay the ability to ride for real. But at least this does not create a drowning risk.

  132. Puzzled July 12, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    My Y, by the way, requires an orientation before being allowed to use the gym and fitness areas. I’ve taught weightlifting to high school students for 7 years. The earliest date they offered me for an orientation was a week out. I said ok, then walked back in the door, logged in, and walked straight to the gym. No one challenged me. They also require that you have a special pair of sneakers that you change into just before going into the gym part of the building. No one has called me on that either.

  133. Rachel July 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, so please forgive me if I repeat other’s advice. I was a lifeguard and taught swimming classes when I was younger. I agree with Eileen to first speak with the aquatics director.

    Then, perhaps you’d want to contact the American Red Cross to get their opinion and see if they are willing to support you in changing the Y policy. The Red Cross has, for a long time, set standards for water safety. If they agree with you, that could mean a lot in swaying the Y’s decision. Of course, if the Red Cross has also gone nuts, then at least you’ll know how deep a problem this is.

  134. Warren July 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    5 years of teaching kids 6 mos. to 16 yrs. 4 teaching and training lifeguards. Filling in for the coach of the town’s swim team, when he was away or ill. 2 yrs teaching special needs kids, voluntary with the sweetest lady you could ever meet.

    You cannot learn to swim while hampered by a PFD,,,,, period. As for these classes that won’t dunk the kids…….they are just chickenshits that have broke under the helicopter parents of the world.

    Loved teaching at our pools. #1 rule, parents leave. If a parent would not leave the pool area, then they would be told to take their child somewhere else to learn. Made our job so much easier.
    It was funny, because those parents would think that some teenager can’t tell them that, and they would go to the Aquatic Co-Ordinator the next day and complain. Only to be told, the same thing.

  135. Emily July 12, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    @Warren–I think there’s some middle ground between dunking a child underwater (which can be traumatizing for the under-five set, and those not familiar with water), and allowing kids to just sit on the side of the pool and not participate. Like I said before, the goal is to get kids to want to dunk themselves voluntarily, by making a game of it–like Ring Around the Hot Dog, diving for objects, underwater freeze tag where you have to unfreeze people by swimming underwater between their outstretched legs, etc. I wouldn’t call refusing to dunk a child “chicken,” but I think that not being able to come up with a viable alternative is a little uncreative.

  136. Donna July 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    @Jill – Huh? There is no possible way to learn to swim if you can’t float. The ability to float is actually key to swimming. Kids don’t even have to be in the water to learn proper swimming arm and leg motions. That is simple. Learning to do them while FLOATING is hard.

    It would be like trying to learn how to ride a bike by riding a stationary bike. How successful do you think you would be the first time you got off that stationary bike and on to the regular bike? You’d fall off the damn thing because all you learned on the stationary bike was how to pedal. You’ve learned nothing about how to balance.

  137. LRH July 12, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I am going to add–I think many parents nowadays are absolutely totally way beyond ridiculous where it regards water safety, to the point that I have a hard time biting my lip and giving in to the urge to yell out to such a parent “if you’re not going to let your child enter the water, quit bringing them around it!!” In fact, it is one of the earliest signs that I was a free-range parent.

    To wit: among many other experiences, I once was at the pool at our apartment complex. A young & attractive lady (sorry, but I couldn’t help but notice) was babysitting (or whatever) a group of kids in our pool, an 8 foot deep unsupervised pool. These kids were like 9-12 years of age. She would not let them go into the 8 foot section, even with her there watching, and I had observed this woman before swimming in the 8 foot section with no problem, meaning that she wouldn’t be helpless if someone got into trouble.

    She briefly went into the apartment & let them continue to be in the pool (the pool was in the middle of all the units, any of them would let you see the pool from the window) during this time they went in the 8 foot section and were doing fine. When she returned, she yelled so loudly you could’ve heard her 8000 miles away. It took all the restraint I could muster to not actually say to her “I think you’re being ridiculous, and if those kids were mine I wouldn’t let you watch them because I think you’re taking away all the fun of being a child in the name of ‘safety.'”

    I really do think a lot of parents do that, and I think it’s just plain cruel frankly. If you’re not going to let your kids actually ENJOY the water, DON’T TAKE THEM THERE. What do you expect? If you took a child to an ice cream place and made them eat collards, how much sense would that make? Taking them to a lake & refusing to let them actually enjoy the water beyond their tip-toes is no different.


  138. Shannon July 12, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Agree with everyone who says that swimming lessons are not enough. My son had a couple of weeks of lessons one summer, then a couple of weeks the next summer. After that he went to Y day camp for a few weeks, then we went to the beach. We went down to the condo pool and he jumped right in the water and COULD SWIM. We were amazed (and my husband was jumping in right behind him!).

    When we took them to free swim time there were never any restrictions–or at least non that we ever violated. When they couldn’t yet swim, we stayed close by in the pool. Nobody wore flotation devices and nobody had to take a swim test.

    When they were in camp they were swim tested every week on Monday. I don’t recall the exact test or limitations (it was a long time ago and I wasn’t actually there during camp), but even before they passed the test they were able to have some time actually swimming under close supervision so that they could practice.

    And I am really curious about how these kids who have been wearing flotation devices for their whole lives can suddenly swim at 12 or whatever. And geez, there are 11 year olds who are taller than I am–to think they can’t be in the shallow end w/o a life jacket…

  139. Warren July 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm #


    Yes there is middle ground. But it is nowhere near as effective.

    Sorry but when it comes to something like dunking kids underwater, so they get used to it, and learn what to do…..the tried and true method of just doing it, and ignoring their tears and screaming.

    You know what happens when you dunk a screaming child…..when they come up they cough and gag.

    You know what happens to that same child when the process is repeated a few times…………they learn to shut their mouths and hold their breath. And by lesson two or three, it is not a big deal anymore.

    You give in, or try to find some middle ground and it is lesson 7 or 8 before they are over it, and you have wasted valuable time, on an irrational fear, and a kid throwing a fit.

    Here is one for you Emily, do you know how we got people down off the high diving board when they froze in fear…………we basically shoved them off into the water. Water does not hurt, near as much as falling to the deck, while trying to climb back down.

    There are other things we were trained to do that you wouldn/t like.

  140. Emily July 13, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    @Warren–Instead of dunking a child underwater, how about just telling them to close their mouths and breathe out their noses before practicing the skill, or playing a game that involves dunking? That way, there’s no coughing, gagging, or screaming. Also, I froze in fear on the high diving board (known as the tower), my first summer at Camp Kitchikewana. Nobody shoved me off of it; instead, the counsellors coached me down. Unfortunately, I put my hands out at my sides (like a gymnast walking on a balance beam), and they burned when I hit the water, so I just didn’t go off the tower for a long while after that. In the event that someone couldn’t be coached down, the counsellor at the bottom of the tower (there was one at the top, and one at the bottom) would climb partway up, and “spot” the child on his or her descent down the ladder. I think that this is especially important in a summer camp setting, because an overnight summer camp is a “24/7” kind of deal–if a child is traumatized in swimming lessons, or during free swim, it’s much easier to leave that, than it is for a child to leave summer camp in the middle of a session. So, for that reason, it wouldn’t be fair to put a child in a position of mistrust towards the adults in charge, in a supposedly safe and positive place.

  141. Warren July 13, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Yes with kids old enough to take instruction, you tell them to close their mouth and hold their breath. 9 times out of 10 you still dunk them. Kids younger you just do it on a bouncing count of 3, while mimicing the holding of your breath. But when it comes right down to it, they have to do it. This is not only swimming for fun lessons, it is also needed skills being taught. No time to be all warm and fuzzy about it. When you are teaching a dozen kids, for 55 minutes once a week, you do not have time to baby them, and it does them no good to be babied.
    As for the high board, coaching them off isn’t frozen in fear. If coaching fails, they go off the board into the water. Climbing back down a wet ladder, with wet feet, while riddled with fear puts the swimmer and lifeguard at risk. One of the first lessons you learn as a lifeguard is not to put yourself at risk. Do you realize what serious injuries can result from a backward fall onto a pool deck?

    Another scenario. Do you know what lifeguards are taught to do if a scared swimmer manages to grab ahold of them?
    Push, pull and hold them under until they release you. Once they realize that you aren’t holding them above water, panic causes them to let go. Create distance and retry. An injured or dead lifeguard cannot save anyone’s life.

  142. Warren July 13, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    One of the greatest things I took away from my lifeguarding years, is the ability to hear. When you have a pool filled with a couple hundred people, you learn to tell the difference between yelling and screaming during horseplay, and the yelling and screaming of distress.

    Makes you much more relaxed around kids in or out of the water..

  143. Donna July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    The Y where my daughter took swimming lessons at 4 didn’t dunk a single kid, force any kid into the pool or force any kid to do anything. By the end of the 8 lessons, every kid was getting in the pool, getting his/her face wet, going to the bottom in the kiddie pool to pick up toys and able to stay afloat to some degree. You don’t have to bully kids to get them to learn how to swim. In fact, forcing some will do little more than make them hate swimming.

  144. Yan Seiner July 13, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    @Warren: I think instructing and lifeguarding techniques have changed. At least none of what you say happens in the dozens of classes in our pool.

    And no lifeguards are not taught to push a drowning person away and hold them under. And people who are drowning do not yell and scream in distress.

  145. Emily July 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    @Warren–I took lifeguard training classes too, and a swimming instructor course as a teenager, but they never, ever told us to dunk a child in swimming lessons, or push a panicking non-swimmer under the water. For swimming lessons, we were taught the methods I told you (incorporating it into a game, or holding hands and going under together), and for rescues, we used the ladder approach–first, try to talk them in, then throw a buoyant object, then throw a rescue aid attached to a rope and tow them in, then swim up to them and hand them a kickboard or other buoyant object, then, as a very last resort, swim up to them and try to pull them back to the side of the pool (or the dock or shore in a lake situation), on your own steam. In the event of a clinger, we were (I think) told to break loose and save ourselves, but not to hold the victim underwater. We were also told that, in a swim rescue, we should approach with the buoyant object first, and hold it between ourselves and the victim, so they’d grab the buoyant object instead of our person. They also touched on making do with common objects, like sticks, canoe paddles, and clothing items, if no “traditional” buoyant objects were available, like in a wilderness situation. I think that those lessons served us pretty well, because I actually did rescue my brother from drowning at the cottage when I was fourteen, when he was having a hernia in the middle of the lake. I swam out to him, and brought him back to the dock using a cross-chest carry.

    Anyway, getting back to the swimming lessons, because those happen at most pools much more often than rescues (I hope), I agree with Donna–you don’t have to bully kids to get them to learn how to swim. I myself learned how to swim through a combination of YMCA swimming lessons, school-organized lessons at the local recreation centre, and more swimming lessons at summer camp, with a lot of reinforcement from my mother in the early years (my dad’s not a good swimmer, or he would have helped too). I was taught in the same positive, nurturing, and fun way that I described, and I grew to love swimming.

    By the same token, I was taught all the traditional “team sports” (basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, and football or rugby) in elementary school, in the same forceful, bullying, “you have to do this” way you described with swimming. During those classes, public humiliation was a regular tool that gym teachers used as an “incentive” to get me to “try harder” or “toughen up,” and thinking that I was playing poorly on purpose, because I was a good student in the classroom; not realizing that I really couldn’t throw, catch, and run as well as the other kids, who teased me mercilessly over that fact. The teasing went unchecked, and the teachers often encouraged it. When I started high school, gym was mandatory for grade nine students, but it wasn’t as bad as elementary school. Being in an all-girls class definitely helped, and my grade nine gym teacher was good, and she had a more positive approach for teaching non-athletes. So, grade nine gym wasn’t torture, but by then, the damage had pretty much been done, and as soon as I no longer had to take mandatory phys. ed. classes, I stopped engaging in pretty much all physical activity, except for swimming and downhill skiing, because I thought I hated exercise. Later on, during the summer between my first and second year of undergrad, I rejoined the YMCA, and started exercising in the Conditioning Room there (and continued to swim in the pool also), and realized that I didn’t hate exercise; I just hated competitive sports. So, I kept exercising individually, and later, branched out and started taking yoga classes, and found I was good at it.

    Today, I’m a certified yoga instructor, and I’m also working on certifications in personal training and choreography-based fitness. However, it took me a long time, and a fairly difficult battle against obesity, to get there, and I firmly believe that it wouldn’t have taken that long if it weren’t for my experiences in gym classes in elementary school. It doesn’t matter what the activity is; if you try to force it down someone’s throat, they’re not going to like it, and they’ll probably stop doing it as soon as they don’t “have to” anymore.

    As for the time crunch issue, our YMCA has gone to “rolling registration” for Otter through Star Six, so instead of enrolling your child in one ten-week block of swimming lessons at a time, you enroll them once, at the beginning of the school year, or the summer, and they start in the level you put them in, and progress through the levels as they’re ready. So, if a child, say, finishes everything for Seal in five lessons, but needs eleven lessons to get through Dolphin, it’s not a big deal, and they aren’t made to feel like they’ve “failed,” and then forced to sign up for ten more lessons of Dolphin, when one more is enough. It also saves parents the hassle of remembering to re-register their kids for swimming every ten weeks, along with all the other little to-do’s that come with parenting. I know you may think that this system is “babying” kids, but you have three children yourself, so I’m sure you’d appreciate the convenience.

  146. Natalie July 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    We were taught the cross chest carry in high school as part of water safety. And something with taking your shoes off, using your pants as a possible floatation device (am I remembering this correctly?). It was a while ago.

    I posted an article a few blogs back on how drowning doesn’t look like drowning. Which should be a no brainer for someone who has worked as a lifeguard, or worked in the coast guard or something like that. But a person who has limited knowledge of water safety on that level (most of us) will be surprised to learn that drowning people do no thrash around, do not scream for help, their head may even be above the water. Rather, they form a sort of T with their body, feet down, arms extended to the side, head lolling. I forget the reason, something having to do with the body’s response.

    If you google “drowning doesn’t look like drowning” I’m sure a number of articles will come up. It’s media that leads us to believe that drowning victims thrash around and cry for help. And it seems logical, so why shouldn’t we believe it?

    My daughter is just now putting her head under the water. On her own initiative. And boy is she proud! Her confidence/swimming improves at her own pace, and we have fun together. She’s decreased her floatie size and will soon not even need one at this rate. I see no need to rush things.

  147. Loreen July 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I learned to swim by the time I was 2 with a wonderful teacher at the Y. I was swimming laps, racing, and could do the breaststroke and butterfly by 3. Wearing a life vest would have been ridiculous at that point. My brother could swim long before he learned to walk. It seems to be instinctual for a lot of kids and shouldn’t be hard to teach for an experienced instructor. It is really important to learn to go under the water if you live near the ocean. It is often safer to go under a wave rather than over so long as you learn not to panic. Going underwater and then resurfacing and floating on your back is a skill every toddler should learn. Making kids wear a life vest might actually be more dangerous once they start swimming in the ocean.

  148. Emily July 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    @Natalie–Yes, you’re right. I also learned (briefly) about tying knots in pant legs and using the pants as a makeshift inflatable flotation device. It also works with shirts, although I forget exactly how.

  149. Warren July 13, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Well being certified for 8 yrs, because I kept up my certification, as an NLS certified lifeguard, teaching lifeguards, heading up in service training for all our town lifeguards, and actually competing in team and pair lifeguard comps is a helluvalot different than taking a few classes.

    And I will tell you right now that in the event a 200 plus pound man that is in a panic grabs ahold of you, you are screwed. The panic increases their strength, and determinaton, and even with my size and power I would be hard pressed to escape. Now I could have written a lifeguard textbook response about all the steps leading up to and including being grabbed, but I really didn’t feel like it.

    We worked on catch and releases. And despite all the techniques we were taught we had lifeguards that could not break my hold, and the hold of other lifeguards. Some of the females were great lifeguards, but I had 80 plus pounds on them, and twice their strength. They didn’t stand a chance. In a real situation, they will have to force the victim under water, to force a release. Or risk death. It i that simple. That black and white. Taking classes at the Y doesn’t mean shit, compared to real life.

    And to be perfectly blunt, we did not bully anyone. And I am sick and fucking tired of you whiney little bitches using the word bullying for every little fucking thing you don’t like.

    I do not care how many of you swim, taught your kids to swim, or whatever bullshit you want to throw out there. None of you could come close to the number of kids, and adults I taught . And I guarantee you, none of you have performed the rescues I have.

    Yes lifeguards are taught to take a fear stricken person under water, to cause them to release their grip. I have taught the techniques on how to do it. And no a drowning victim seldom screams in distress, but a hurt child does, people around victims do.

    All you experts know jack shit. Been there, done it, taught it, and also partnered with a co worker to modify our pool backboards, to secure the victim better, and lift from the pool easier.

  150. Yan Seiner July 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    @Warren: Please remember this is a family blog. Your language and your attitude, frankly, are totally out of place.

    Apparently you know everything better than everyone. It’s a wonder you’re not emperor of the world.

    Honestly, your boasting and foul language make you look like an idiot, but that’s your choice.

  151. Emily July 14, 2013 at 12:36 am #

    @Warren–Maybe there are some circumstances under which you’ve had to briefly put a panicking drowning victim underwater to stop them from trying to grab onto you. Fine, rescues with buoyant aids don’t always work, slipping underwater yourself doesn’t always work, and the rescuer’s life ultimately comes first. I get that–and actually, now that I remember it, I think we were taught to try to slip underwater ourselves, so the victim would let go, but not to try to take them down with us. However, you really don’t have me convinced that it’s so important for a child to learn how to breathe/swim underwater in two or three swimming lessons instead of five, or eight, or ten, that you have to forcibly push them underwater. I think it’s more important that they learn to do these things voluntarily, because then, they’ll be more inclined to practice swimming on their own, which will make them stronger swimmers in the long run. Forcing a child underwater may force that skill a few weeks earlier, but people in the “forced underwater” or “thrown in the deep end” group are rarely to be found on swim teams, or in Bronze Medallion/Bronze Cross classes, or at open lane swims, later in life.

    So, since swimming is a vital surivival skill, I think it’s even more important to find ways to teach kids to swim in a positive and non-scary manner, because little kids remember a lot more than we give them credit for. For some kids, being dunked underwater or thrown in the deep end against their will by a parent or a swimming instructor, is traumatizing enough that they become even more reluctant to swim, and end up avoiding water as they get older. These people become true “non-swimmers,” in that they don’t swim, and they don’t want to swim, unlike all those poor life-jacketed kids at Krista’s YMCA, who do want to swim, but aren’t given the opportunity to practice. However, while everyone hovers over kids around water, nobody thinks to watch out for the adult who looks strong and healthy, but can barely dog-paddle.

    For example, my dad isn’t good at swimming, not because of a traumatizing experience, but because of a simple broken promise surrounding swimming He wanted a pair of golf shoes as a teenager, and his mother promised him the shoes if he learned some basic survival swimming (I think he was 13 or 14). He kept up his end of the deal, but she didn’t, reasoning that his “feet were still growing.” After that, he didn’t see any point in swimming, so he just stopped. Now, if that can drive someone away from water, then a traumatizing experience in the water at a much younger age can certainly have the same effect. I refuse to ride roller coasters, because I went on one when I was six, and when the track tipped sideways, I thought I was going to fall out. Yes, I was strapped in, but I was also six years old, and didn’t have a solid grasp on physics.

    Likewise, a preschooler won’t understand that Mommy/Daddy/Warren the swimming instructor isn’t dunking them to be mean, but to teach them “for their own good.” The biggest lesson they’ll learn from this is, “saying no doesn’t work,” and “might makes right.” You say that dunking a child underwater, or throwing them in the deep end, isn’t bullying, but it fits the criteria–you’re using your significant advantage over the child, of size, and strength, and a position of authority, to dominate and exert your will over him or her. If you were lifeguarding at the pool, and you saw an older child doing that to a younger child, you’d tell them to stop it, right? Well, what would you say if the older kid replied, “But Warren, that’s how you taught me when I was in beginner swimming lessons with you?” It’s far easier to set a universal rule that everyone treats one another with respect and kindness, than to say that might makes right in SOME circumstances, but not all, and to set up a complicated system of double standards, that okays adults dunking kids, but not kids dunking kids, or adults spanking kids, but not physical violence on the playground, and a myriad of other uneven rules.

    Anyway, back to swimming–I learned these early skills by playing Ring Around the Hot Dog and diving for imaginary pickles, or pennies, or weighted plastic toys, and passed it on. You learned by shoving kids underwater, and passed that on. All I know is, I doubt I ever put anyone off of swimming during Ring Around the Hot Dog, and I really doubt you can say the same thing about the forcing method. I know you’ll probably say that those kids are “just pansies,” and need to “get over it,” or “toughen up,” but there are two holes in that line of logic. Number one, how would you feel if someone who weighed 1,000 pounds (which would be about five times your size, so, about the same size ratio between an adult and a preschooler) shoved you underwater, or into a situation that you’re frightened of, against your will? Number two, how the heck is the Warren Solution of “Get over it and toughen up, you pansy” going to help them if they fall out of a boat?

  152. hineata July 14, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Yes, Emily….yes.

  153. lsl July 14, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    I have been a swim instructor & a lifeguard. I think Warren was just a little careless in his description of what to do if someone panicking grabs you. It’s not that you push them under, you go under yourself, & if that’s not enough to make them let go, you push them up, while staying under yourself, & when they let go, you swim under water until you’re out of reach.

    As far as pushing screaming kids underwater to teach them, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Face the kid (when they’re calm), hold hands, count, & go under. They may barely get their mouth wet the first time, but eventually they’ll go under. My husband’s dad would pull him under, & he’s still scared of the water, even after scout camps.

  154. Emily July 14, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    >>Yes, Emily….yes.<<

    Sarcasm? I'm sorry I was so long-winded; I just can't stand the line of logic that the way to "fix" someone's fear of something, is through physical force.

  155. Natalie July 14, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    No problem being long winded (coming from a fellow long winded person, so I might be biased). But you brought up some good points regarding teaching.

  156. hineata July 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    Emily, not sarcasm, just wanted to agree with everything you said, Lol!! No worry about being longwinded, am usually that myself 🙂

    I especially liked the thousand pound man idea….have been trying to visualize one! Have a great day 🙂

  157. Emily July 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    >>I especially liked the thousand pound man idea….have been trying to visualize one! Have a great day <<

    Well, this thousand pound man would have to be about twelve feet tall, in order to get the preschooler-to-adult-size ratio completely accurate. So, a regular man's head would come up to about his waist, or maybe a bit above, and a regular woman's head would come up to the middle or the top of his thigh. His proportions are the same as any other man; he's just twelve feet tall and weighs a thousand pounds. Does that make it easier to visualize?

  158. Uly July 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Yes, warren, you know everything and everybody else in the world is wrong. /sarcasm

    If you had a valid point, you wouldn’t need to resort to childish insults.

    On that note, I am, as an adult, finally learning to swim this year! I just had my first class, and many of us were reluctant to put our heads under, but with patience and time we all got there. Nobody dunked us, but then, nobody thinks they have the right to humiliate and scare an *adult*.

  159. Andy July 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Most in my generation were taught swimming by “tried and true” throw them there and ignore cries method.

    Well, I know too many adults that are shit scared of deep water and are not willing to go there. Or at least hate the water and still remember how they hated swimming lessons.

    Most of those adults actually can float a bit and swim short distance – it is fear and hate not incapability.

    For that reason I would not put my kid through such lessons. I want them swim and like water.

  160. Andy July 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    @Uly “nobody thinks they have the right to humiliate and scare an *adult*.”

    Unfortunately, plenty of people think so. It is just that they do not have to power and possibility.

  161. Emily July 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    @Uly–That’s awesome that you’re learning to swim. How did you like your first lesson? I went swimming today too, at the beach near my house, because it was about 30 C out, and it’s just now cooled down to 28. .

  162. hineata July 14, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    @Emily – ta for that! Yep, think I have it now :-).

    And,wildly off topic, but you’re so lucky to be in 30C temps. I know intellectually that summer will return, but right now it’s so wet cold and miserable down here that it’s hard to have faith in the concept of warm weather, lol! Hope you have lots of swims while you can…

    @Uly – good on you! Never too late to gain new skills, especially such an important one as swimming.

  163. Uly July 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    Well, I learned a little and made progress, so I liked it a lot! Plus, I may be able to cadge some glasses frames off the instructor, which will save me a bundle.

    And yes, I really want to learn how to swim because I’ve been pushing the nieces to learn, and now I want to be able to take them into the water and let them go a little further than I currently allow when I’m with them.

  164. SKL July 14, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    I never took swimming lessons. When I was 8, my sibs and friends and I went to the public pool, where my next-door neighbor showed me how to dog-paddle. Eventually I figured out some sort of swim-looking stroke. I “swim” best underwater or on my back. I often think about taking swim lessons, but I’m not sure I ever will.

    I never did learn how to “float.” I suppose that makes me weird.

  165. CrazyCatLady July 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    At some point with my older two kids, we did swimming lessons because it was the only way we could get into a pool.

    My son was just 2 at the time. I had to be in the water with him for the lesson. (Which I was fine with.) For learning to go under the water, the parent held the child with face out of the water, then rotated the child so that their ear was in the water, then rotated forward so the face was under. It worked like a charm. The toddler would close mouth when the ear went in and then the parent could put the child under – they had us pushing the child under as though swimming underwater. No screaming toddlers. None gasping because they swallowed water. None of them scared.

  166. Warren July 15, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Go to hell. Our methods were not bullying, nor scary. They were the tried and true methods taught by the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada. If anyone actually read earlier posts instead of being lazy weak ass posters you would see it.

    As for teaching adults to go underwater. It is a helluvalot easier, because they can take instruction verbally. Most kids, at the age of their first few lessons are not capable of taking verbally instruction. And adults for the most part with some coaching will overcome their fears. I still have a scar on my arm from a ladies nails digging in, because while she attempted going under, she wanted to hold my arm. But she did it.

  167. Uly July 15, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Warren, I don’t know if your methods were harmful to the kids because, you’re right, I wasn’t there.

    I do know that you are a very unpleasant person and your credibility is totally shot by the fact that you seem unable to defend yourself without attacking other people. So, yes, I suspect based on that fact alone that your methods were bullying and that they were scary to the kids and that you simply don’t care if they had a lasting negative impact.

  168. Warren July 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm #


    If you wish to accuse me of bullying kids, by extension abusing them, you best to do one of two things. Do it to my face, or keep your comments to yourself.

    I may be abrasive, but I do not accuse anyone of harming kids.

    And untill you have seen how I teach swimming, and I still do a little on the side for friends and family. When their instructors have pointed out things to work on before the next session. But untill you actually witness some form of abuse or bullying, keep your yap shut.

  169. Katie July 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    Warren in this topic “I may be abrasive, but I do not accuse anyone of harming kids”.

    Warren a few topics ago at Pentamom “Teaching kids to be considerate is one thing, but suppressing them is another”.

  170. Uly July 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Warren, to sink down to your level here, let me just give this reply:

    “It’s a free country.”

    We are conversing online. By those standards, I *am* telling you to your face what I think of you. And frankly, after you’ve gone around and called people here and elsewhere “whiny bitches”, for you to criticize valid comments about you is a bit rich.

    Not, of course, that I called you a bully. However, guess what? I do see you bullying others! Or, at least, I see you attempting to use verbal intimidation, belittling, and profanity to shut down a discussion that’s critical of you. I don’t know how much teaching experience everybody else here has, but it is pretty ignorant to insist nobody at all here could possibly have your five years of experience teaching kids. It looks a little insecure to me, and it doesn’t make me particularly sanguine of your methods in real life.

    I tell you what. My swim teacher right now is the same one who taught my niece seven years ago. I’ll ask her her opinion of teaching them by pushing them underwater. I’ll do that tonight. Heck, I’ll ask ALL the instructors there. I know many of them have easily 5+ years of experience. Then I’ll report back.

  171. Uly July 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. I’m a little surprised warren managed to get kids, honestly. I miss Dolly.

  172. Jill July 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    @crazycatlady actually I was a collegic competitive swimmer and swim teacher. I understand the rule is a little strict but we taking life and death here. Have you’ve ever been to a really busy swimming pool? With hundreds or kids in it? I know if I was guarding a pool like that I would appreciate the rule and as a mother who respects and fully understands the water… I can appreciate the rule even more.

  173. Jill July 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Sorry for the typos 🙂

  174. Jill July 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    @crazycatlady – would you leave your children in a bath tub unattended? Even for a second? I hope your answer is NO!!! And if it is, why would you allow your child in the pool without protecting them if you know they cannot swim? Seems a little risky. We all know kids make poor decisions…the same kid who probably just ate a quarter is now supposed to make smart choices in the pool and on top of it can’t swim? I’m not saying this rule
    Is for everyone… But you have to take into consideration 1- these are children we are talking about 2- their parents (we’ve all seen the mom and dad who rather talk to someone else than engage with their children) 3- what the encourages… A great conversation and lesson about life! That the pool is something to have fun in but also respect!

  175. Jill July 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    To everyone…. The Y has been a trend setter in the field for over 100 years… Hell they created Father’s Day (bet you didn’t know that nugget) why wouldn’t you at least consider their stance? I bet over the next 5 years you’ll
    See this more and more. Sure it might be seen aggressive now but there’s an important life in that jacket…. Protect it!

  176. Katie July 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Hmm, this might be the tin foil hat talking, but is anyone else thinking Jill is a helicopter persona troll, that Warren has created to divert attention away from his previous posts?

  177. Warren July 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Sorry Katie, I do not hide behind fake names.

    Because I seriously disagree with her statements. Mostly the one about the Y being a trendsetter. Trends are one thing, but setting a trend is not setting the standard.

    Quite a few places do not accept Y certifications, as meeting the requirements.

    And again at Uly, you check with Mark Spitz for all I care.
    “Yes with kids old enough to take instruction, you tell them to close their mouth and hold their breath. 9 times out of 10 you still dunk them. Kids younger you just do it on a bouncing count of 3, while mimicing the holding of your breath. But when it comes right down to it, they have to do it. This is not only swimming for fun lessons, it is also needed skills being taught. No time to be all warm and fuzzy about it. When you are teaching a dozen kids, for 55 minutes once a week, you do not have time to baby them, and it does them no good to be babied.”

    Taken from one of my earlier posts. If you or anyone else thinks that is cruel, or bullying, then you need some serious help.

  178. Emily July 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    >>……but there’s an important life in that jacket…. Protect it!<<

    @Jill–That's exactly what we've been saying all this time–protect all those important lives, by teaching them to swim.

  179. CrazyCatLady July 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Jill, I was a life guard and swim teacher. Yes, I have been at really busy pools, ones that I was guarding at, that were filled to capacity. Over 100 people as I recall, but not hundreds, because that would be over capacity and just stupid dangerous. As the Lead Guard, it was my duty to make sure that we had proper staff coverage or that we limited the amount of people in the pool at a given time if we for some reason did not have proper coverage.

    No, I DO NOT appreciate this rule. At all. A swim test is fine. But for kids who can touch the bottom of the pool in the shallow end, they DO NOT need to wear a life jacket. That is just humiliating.

  180. CrazyCatLady July 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Jill, well I guess I need to disappoint you, because yes, I let my kids bath by themselves.

    You see, unlike the people making the rule about the life jackets, I understand that there is a time when my kids, ages 8, 11 and 13 are old enough to be safe in the tub. It was different ages for each kid, based on their needs.

    I understand the difference between apples and oranges, and all you see are fruit. You can’t see that there is a difference between a child who can’t touch the bottom, who actually needs floatation or an adult (I prefer the adult but some pools are different) and a kid who can stand up on their own in the water and whose head is completely out of the water when they are standing flat footed. And that is what this is about – most kids age 6 and over can stand just fine in 3 feet of water, but may not be able to swim. And to learn, they need to NOT have that PFD on them all the time they are in the water.

    I lived for many years in a community of watermen. Men who crabbed and oystered for a living. On the water. So many of these men did not know how to swim, nor did their children. There were rivers and ponds all around the county. And many poor people who could not afford lessons, but could send their kids to the pool a couple of times a week. The ONLY way these kids would learn was if they had the opportunity to do so where they were safe with a lifeguard – not at the river, pond or bay. But if they had to wear a life vest until age 11 (because how are they going to learn with it on?) they never would have attempted it. They would have been teased by other kids and ended up going someplace less safe or sitting at home on the couch all day.

    So maybe you think your way would save a life. I KNOW that my way saved lives. I saw many kids over the course of the summers who became proficient swimmers with no lessons other than pointers from other kids and occasionally, me, the life guard. And they were safer when they went out on the water as teens and adults than if they had given up at age 8 due to being teased.

  181. Uly July 16, 2013 at 12:54 am #

    Jill, what are you, some kind of perv? Who stares at their naked five year old while they bathe?

    And no, I don’t think Warren and Jill are the same person. Most trolls don’t bother to seriously alter their writing styles, and there is a BIG difference between the two. Sometimes, people are just unpleasant, and sometimes two unpleasant people disagree.

    To keep everybody updated, I did ask, and was told that while dunking a kid IS one method, it is certainly not the ONLY method, nor always the best one and she, personally, prefers to use other ways to get kids to go under on their own.

    So there you go, and she most definitely has at least the same number of years experience teaching little kids as you do, Warren. The class size at the public pools caps at, I believe, 25, but they have multiple instructors for the kids, so I don’t know the exact ratio.

  182. pentamom July 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    No, Uly, that can’t be right, because Warren has already said no one has ever taught as many kids to swim as he has or knows as much about it as he does. And somehow, he knows this to be the case.

  183. Amanda Matthews July 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    I agree with Warren on the dunking thing. Not that you have to bully kids… yes explain it to them, but if they don’t get it or refuse to do it, then you have to dunk them and ignore the whining or they will never learn.

    This is pretty much why, after going to lessons together the first time, I ended up becoming a lifeguard while my brother never learned to swim. My brother was(/is) afraid of putting his face in the water. If he would have just been dunked at that young age, he would have gotten over it; but since he was babied and my mom said he didn’t have to put his face in the water, he was never able to progress past that first day of class (though he did try again several times as he got older, only to have the same fear), and never able to learn to swim.

    The fear of the water doesn’t go away because someone turns 10; it only gets worse as the person gets older. It’s better to get them over it at a young age, because yes they will remember the dunking but if done young enough, they won’t remember the fear they previously had. And dunking them doesn’t traumatize them; it makes them realize that they AREN’T going to die from putting their face in the water for a few seconds. Now if you held them under to the point of near-drowning, THAT would traumatize them; but that is far from what Warren is talking about.

  184. SKL July 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    I don’t think I’d want a teacher dunking my young kid; if my kid needs dunking, I’ll do it myself.

    Where my kids take lessons, they simply won’t progress you to the next level until you can do xyz. Willingly putting your own head underwater is one of the xyz at a very early stage. Some kids are scared to do it, but the parents do get sick of paying for the same level of swim lessons season after season, so they take matters into their own hands, go into the pool with their kids (during free swim), and do what needs done to get the kid comfortable with putting his head underwater. Which will be different for different kids. Of course this is harder to do if the kid is required to wear a life jacket outside of swim lessons . . . .

  185. CrazyCatLady July 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Teaching kids at a young age is best. All you really need is a bath tub or a dish tub of water. Toddlers love to play – get them to blow bubbles and see how it feels to put their faces in. I started my kids VERY young, and they never really had a fear of it.

    I learned to swim under water before I was two. Yet, I had a horrible, irrational fear of showers. Put my whole head under – that was fine, stand under the shower to rinse hair? Screamed bloody murder!

    Another thing about the life jackets is it also prevents another very important skill – learning to put your feet on the bottom if you fall in. One of the first things I taught all kids as a swim instructor, was if you fell into the water to try to put your feet on the bottom. My mother fell off a dock at age 4, and almost drowned because she didn’t think to try to get her feet on the bottom. Kids are not always at a pool with the lifejacket – they can fall in back yard fish ponds and drown there if they don’t know what to do. Or, as older kids, slip into a river or canal when walking with friends.

  186. Warren July 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm #


    Yes kids can handle adversity, but not our kids. God forbid they get pushed to do things they don’t like.

    It is because of parents like most in here, than our town banned parents at poolside. You could all sit upstairs and watch from behind glass, where you the parent could be seen and not heard.

  187. David July 17, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    My daughter, who is 4 and has a swim lesson every week. Just last week she had her first lesson without the floaty. no song and dance, no notice to the parents. She did brilliantly and it was not until the end of the lesson that she realised what had happened. Children sometimes need an unwitting push.

  188. Emily July 17, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    @Warren–I’m not saying that no kid should have to handle adversity, ever; I’m just saying that there’s no point in forcing adversity on a child when it isn’t necessary. There are many ways to teach the skill of going underwater/putting your face in the water, that don’t involve physical force. You can hold hands and go under/jump into the water from the side of the pool together, you can make a game of it somehow, or, you can talk to the kid and figure out what’s behind the fear. It may be something as simple as an aversion to water in the eyes, in which case you give the child a pair of goggles or a diving mask or something. Maybe there isn’t time for the instructor to play psychologist to each kid in the class, but he or she can certainly take notes for later, and talk to the parent about it, in order to figure out a plan for the next lesson. If the general consensus is that the child just isn’t ready, then repeatedly enrolling that child in the same level of swimming lessons isn’t going to help–in that case, I’d just wait until the child matured a bit. Just because there are swimming lessons available for preschoolers, toddlers, and even infants, doesn’t mean that every child is going to be ready to take them. It’s not the end of the world to say, “not this year,” and then wait and put your child into Otter/Aqua Quest 1/whatever equivalent, at the age of five or six, instead of forcing a screaming two-year-old underwater.

    After all, SKL said that the skill in question was to put your face in the water WILLINGLY, so it surely doesn’t count if the instructor forces the child. Some might do it willingly after the first few dunks, and others might be put off swimming forever, but that’s exactly why I wouldn’t want to do the dunking thing, because what if my child (or, my young protégé in Otter or whatever) never wanted to swim again after being dunked? So, yes, I’m all for taking off the floaties, and encouraging kids through the “scarier” moments (dunking, floating, jumping, diving, submerged rescues in Bronze Cross), but if it gets to the point of physical force, it’s probably gone too far. It might be worth either waiting a bit, or if the child is still afraid to go underwater by age eight or nine, then maybe that child just isn’t a swimmer. THEN you do the life jacket thing (until the child is ready to try again, of course), but you give the child a chance to try first. That’s what I was objecting to with this article–not putting legitimate “non-swimmers” in life jackets when in water out of their depth, but rather, never giving kids a chance to BECOME swimmers. There’s a difference between crippling a child, and repeatedly forcing a child to do things they’re afraid of, or just plain hate.

    Some fears are rational, and others aren’t, but I think that all fears should be respected. One of my favourite yoga teachers at the YMCA is afraid of water (won’t put her face in), and she’s in her fifties. She still teaches Aquafit from the side of the pool, and she still lives a full and active life; she just doesn’t swim. I don’t think she’s a “hypocrite” or a “sissy” for that, and actually, I think her fear of water is much more rational than my fear of roller coasters and fast thrill rides, because the chances of dying of drowning versus dying on a roller coaster, are much higher. However, she’s never going to swim, and I’m never going to ride on another roller coaster, because of the Santa’s Village incident when I was six. My family and friends accept this, although some took some convincing to get there–my brother didn’t accept it fully until a few years ago.

    However, Warren, suppose there was a Free Range Kids field trip to a place like Canada’s Wonderland, and we were both there. Suppose I just wanted to race go-karts and go to the water park, and maybe get a henna tattoo after Splash Works, but you wanted me to ride roller coasters with you. If I refused, would you push the issue, and call me a “sissy” or “pansy” or “hypocrite” if I refused? If FRK had existed when I was a child (I think you’re older than me, but I’m not sure), and I was small enough to pick up and PUT on the roller coaster, would you have forced me to do it then? If, at the end of the ride, I said I’d hated it, would you then force me to ride another roller coaster? I guess what I’m trying to say is, “free range” doesn’t necessarily mean bludgeoning kids with experiences they hate in order to “build character.”

    So, while it’s definitely a good idea for every child to try swimming lessons, the fact remains that there are swimmers, pre-swimmers, and non-swimmers in the world, and there are different types of “water safety” guidelines for each category, no matter what age. So, it’s just as wrong to try to force a non-swimmer to be a swimmer, as it is to cripple a pre-swimmer by strapping on the life jacket and hindering his or her progression to swimmer.

  189. Uly July 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Geez, Warren, chill out! First profanity, then all caps and multiple exclamation points (a sure sign, as Pratchett as observed, of a deranged mind), what’s next?

  190. SKL July 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    The biggest danger in water is that of panicking to the point of drowning oneself or someone else. A history of being forcibly dunked when not ready would, IMO, increase the likelihood of panic in a water emergency. It also goes against the concept we teach our kids that they have a right to say no to things that are scary to them, particularly if it isn’t their parent doing it to them.

    Kids do learn to swim without being forcibly dunked. The program at our local rec center uses fun games where the child gradually gets more and more submerged in order to complete certain fun tasks, to the point where they have to dive to pick up rings off the bottom of the pool. A child who is not ready is allowed to watch the others, and usually she will build up the courage to try it rather than be left out of the fun. Using this gentle method, my kids began to swim, fearlessly, at age 3. (I did not take them to the pool before 3 because as a single mom, I couldn’t / didn’t want to do the mom-and-me classes, nor did I want to chase two toddler non-swimmers around a pool.)

  191. SKL July 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I don’t think free range means forbidding children from having their own fears. We all have fears, and different people need to deal with them in different ways.

  192. FreeRoamer July 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    I’m also in Philly (South Philly specifically) and take my nieces and nephews when they visit to a nearby gym that is very liberal in their pool and guest policies. It’s never very crowded, there’s plenty of room to free swim even when others are doing laps, and they have a plethora of water wings and other floatables. My fiance and I even bring diving sticks and inflatable balls to play with, as we both find lap swimming very boring (which has caused no problems with other swimmers or staff). We used to belong to the Y as well but weren’t happy with a number of their more restrictive policies.

  193. Rachel July 18, 2013 at 4:19 am #

    I`m someone that actually almost drowned as a kid,and still think this is stupid.
    As a five or so year old I jumped in the deep end,sunk and was saved by a life guard.
    I never did that again though and became a smarter and better swimmer eminently.

    Making the kids where life jackets or keeping to the kiddy pool will make it less fun for them,likely making them not wanting to swim at all. There for not getting the necessary practice. I`m not really against kids under 10 having a parent or guardian in the pool with but that’s it.

    Forcing them doesn’t make sense either,it needs to be fun for the kids and they can become more confident on their own. Invite friends for the kid to play with in the water.

    After I almost drowned I was still expected to swim,no one made a big deal out of it. That’s likely why it never became a phobia.

  194. Warren July 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I have tried to remain patient with you and your warm and fuzzy solutions for everything. Time to grow up Emily. First of all, if you want the personalized attention for your child that you are talking about, dole out the dollars for private lessons. When you have a dozen or more kids for 55 mins. Once a week, you do not have that time. When you have 5 mins. between classes to get ready for your next class, and maybe use the washroom, you do not have time to track mom down in the changeroom for a heart to heart.

    As for your assumption that our methods could and did traumatize kids? You are a fool. Not one of our students were traumatized or turned off swimming. As a matter of fact, our staff had a reputation of being able to cope and help even the most difficult child.

    Now, the whole trip to an amusement park. This just proves you are out in left field. Apples to oranges. Comparing a trip to Wonderland to taking swimming lessons? Where possibly is there a connection.

    Emily, sorry but taking the preliminary classes, which would not allow you to work for our town, as NLS cert. was required, does not make you anywhere close to knowledgable to try and modify how we do/did things.

  195. Warren July 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm #


    You are one of those people that continually poke at a dog, until you end up in the ER, and then claim you do not know why you were attacked, arent you……….Moron.

  196. Emily July 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    @Warren–a few things here:

    1. I didn’t mean “track down the child’s mother in the change room for a heart to heart,” I meant, quickly make a note next to the child’s name, and call her later. School teachers do that all the time, so why not swimming teachers?

    2. As for “individualized solutions,” I only meant to go that route if taking a positive approach with the whole group didn’t work for some kids. As a group, it’s possible to do the “hold hands and dunk together” as a whole group (either on its own, or in the context of “Ring Around the Hot Dog” or whatever), and even if it was one kid at a time, well, you still forcibly dunk one kid at a time, right? How does simply holding hands and going under on the count of three take any longer? Anyway, I’d try it that way at first, and if it didn’t work for some kids, I’d phone or e-mail their parents later.

    2. I used the comparison to the amusement park, because although I’m not afraid of water, to me, being forced onto a roller coaster would be my equivalent of being forced underwater, for a person like my yoga teacher, who’s afraid of water.

    3. If you have twelve kids in each beginner swim class, and there isn’t enough time to teach without force, maybe you have too many kids in each class.

    4. You say that none of your students were ever turned off swimming, but it’s hard to be able to definitively say that, because the survey pool (no pun intended) consists of only the students who came back for lessons.

    5. I have my Bronze Cross, and I took NLS, but didn’t finish because I was being sexually harassed (along with all the other girls in the class) by the instructor. I did, however, take the Assistant Swimming Instructor course before that, and that included a practicum component, so I witnessed, and was part of, the positive teaching methods that the YMCA used. No forcing, no dunking, no shaming, and I think everyone in the little kid lessons passed at some point, and once it got to school age, some kids became swimmers, and others didn’t. However, I’ve been taking fitness instructor courses through the YMCA, so NLS might be my next project. I guess what I’m trying to say is, just because I don’t have my NLS right now doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything.

  197. Emily July 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Whoops, I meant, “The survey pool consists of only the students who came back for MORE lessons” following the dunking incident. Anyway, Warren, I stand by what I said. I don’t know what Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada you’re talking about, but I learned from the same one, and was never told to dunk anyone underwater against their will.

  198. Uly July 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    So, basically, Warren, you’re saying that we should all be super nice and kind and sweet to you when you wouldn’t dream of showing us the same courtesy because you don’t have the same self control we expect of our pets?

    And you say you aren’t a bully!

    You are, I assume, an adult. Put on your big boy pants and act like it.

  199. Warren July 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Tell you what, you put on your big boy pants, ask your wife for your pair back, come on down to Kingston and we can discuss this face to face.

    Then you could make your accusations in the only acceptable manner. In person. Untill then, you will hold a place between an inch worm, and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth on hot days.

  200. Emily July 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    No, Uly, my take is that Warren is always right, and anyone who disagrees with him is just goading him into a hostile reaction, because everything that contradicts Warren’s opinions is nonsense.

  201. Warren July 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm #


    Will make my responses to yours, number for number.
    1. Pay for private lessons. 90% of our instructors teach between 10 and 15 classes a week. Most of the instructors are highschool or college students. They do not get paid to take work home with them.
    2. Again pay for private lessons, if you desire that kind of attention. No swim instructor needs to take work home with them, considering they probably teach over 100 students a week.
    3.Your comparison is still idiotic. Comparing lessons to riding a rollercoaster. The rollercoaster is a funtime you would miss, and noone really cares. Swimming lessons are not up for negotiation. If mom and dad say you are going then you are going. And it is the instructors job to teach them the required skills to move on.
    4. Well if our methods turned kids off of swimming then we would have seen the numbers drop for the next session. As all of our instructors taught with the same methods, as set out by our employer, and gone over at every inservice training. Our staff in the time I was there taught thousands of kids and adults how to swim. And you would think if our methods were questionable, we wouldn’t have the enrollment.
    5. And yes until you are fully certified, with years of experience behind you, you do not know what you are talking about. As it stands now, the only thing you would have qualified for at our pools, would be cashier.

    Now my own question for the masses. Just what do you think we are doing when we say we are dunking a kid?
    Please give me you idea of what we are doing. I pretty much guarantee you are wrong, and way off. But that is the way you guys are.

  202. Uly July 18, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Five bucks says that “warren” is all of 99 pounds and, judging by the level of his puerile threats, even less adult than I’ve been assuming.

    Warren, the accusations I’ve made have to do with your behavior HERE. Your behavior HERE is childish. Your behavior HERE is bullying. Your behavior HERE shows what sort of person you are in real life, because if you were the sort of person who acted like an adult in real life – that means no profanity, no cheap insults, and no physical violence – you wouldn’t try acting like that online.

    People only threaten violence when they know they cannot defend their arguments on their own merits.

  203. Emily July 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    @Warren–At the YMCA, I think NLS and swimming instructors’ courses are separate, and you can have one without the other. I mean, obviously, to be a swimming instructor, you’d have to be proficient at swimming (like, completed Bronze Medallion or Bronze Cross), but I never heard that you needed NLS to teach basic swimming lessons, from infant/preschool levels, or for Otter through Star Six.

    As for kids being turned off of swimming because of dunking, forcing, etc., maybe the numbers stayed the same, but how many of those were returning students versus new enrollments? If you get a big influx for Otter, but the reluctant dunkees don’t return for Seal, Dolphin, Swimmer, etc., then that’s a pretty clear sign. I’ve seen and heard tons of stories of people who’ve said, “My mom/dad/swimming instructor tried to teach me to swim by dunking me underwater/throwing me in the deep end, and I’ve been afraid of water ever since.” Some weren’t affected in that way, but again, I wouldn’t take the chance.

    As for swimming lessons being non-negotiable, I’d amend that to say that TRYING swimming lessons is non-negotiable, but if, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t “take” after a reasonable try (which happened with my dad and my brother), then you stop, and just take extra precautions around water with that person–life jackets in boats, of course, avoid water out of their depth, and just make sure they recognize the limits of their swimming abilities. Not everyone is good at everything, and some people are afraid of water. People who are as afraid of water, as I am of roller coasters, generally know that about themselves, and therefore don’t spend a lot of time around swimming pools or natural bodies of water. I know learning to swim is important, but again, some people are true non-swimmers, and their way of practicing “water safety” is to realize that and act accordingly.

    I still don’t think my comparison to roller coasters is idiotic, because whenever I see a roller coaster in real life, and people rushing by, plunging down massive drops, twisting sideways and turning upside down, strapped in and screaming, my heart beats faster, my hands start to sweat, and I feel a bit sick inside, because I still remember the Santa’s Village incident as if it was yesterday, and I used to hate even being around roller coasters, but now I can at least be in the vicinity of one. If someone suggested that I ride on a roller coaster, let alone trying to MAKE me get on, I’d tell them no, and if they didn’t respect that, to the point of actually dragging me onto the ride, then I’d probably never speak to them again. I never said that riding a roller coaster was an important life skill; I just meant that I’m able to empathize with people who are afraid of water, because I have something that I’m equally afraid of. It’s not about which fears are “legitimate,” and which fears need to be “corrected” according to your standards; it’s about understanding why someone would feel a certain way.

  204. Natalie July 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Emily, Uly,
    You’re wasting your time.
    Warren is incapable of handling conflict or disagreement. Just can’t handle it. And he’s got no sense of what a fool he is.
    I’m sure there are people that could talk about this issue with you. Should we call it the dunking issue? That could converse without blowing a fuse and embarrassing themselves.
    This guy isn’t one of them. He’s got more issues than National Geographic.

  205. Warren July 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm #


    Again come to Kingston, I’ll by you lunch, and you can make your accusations in person.

    You didn’t finish your NLS which excludes you from lifeguarding at for the town. You took assistant instructing? Not even recognized by our town. To teach for the town you must be fully cert as an instructor, then assist under a town instructor for 20 hours. So no you are not quaified, to do anything other than be cashier.


    Again you think I operate under the same guidelines or morals as you. No I do not, as being in permanent PMS mode would be awful. Oh sorry was that sexist. Nat, you are one of those chicks that think you set the standard and can change eveyone to think the way you do. A typical estrogen charged ideal.

    No one answered my question. Just what do you think we are doing when we talk about dunking kids?

  206. Warren July 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Swimming lessons when mom and dad pay for their child to take them, are non negotiable for the child. Whether they want to or not, they are taking them, because their parent signed them up and paid the fee. With that comes a certain level of expectation from the parents that we, the instructors, will do what we can to get the most out of their kid.

    If you don’t like that, to damn bad.

  207. Emily July 19, 2013 at 1:07 am #


    1. Swimming lessons from infant through Star Six are free with membership at our YMCA, so if the child turns out not be a swimmer (which most people find out before Master Swimmer or Bronze Star), the parent isn’t out any money. Even if money was an object, I don’t think that the “parent is paying, child has to do it” argument is necessarily a trump card. If the parent pays, say, $100 for ten weeks of swimming lessons, and the child has a miserable experience (dunking, or thrown/pushed into the deep end) in week three, and doesn’t want to return, then maybe the parent and child have gotten $30 worth of swimming instruction in the mathematical sense, but in the “real” sense, not so much. Swimming lessons are supposed to make kids feel more comfortable in the water, especially in the lower levels, and if they have the opposite effect, they haven’t achieved their purpose. For every school-age swimming level at the YMCA, there are “general objectives” that come before specific swimming objectives. I don’t remember all of them for the Star levels, but for the first four levels (Otter through Swimmer), those objectives are “Participant relates well to others,” and “Participant enjoys participation.” Dunking a child underwater would negate those two objectives in one fell swoop.

    2. Don’t parents teach children that their bodies are their own? If the child doesn’t want his or her body to be shoved underwater, or pushed or thrown into the deep end, then that should be the child’s decision, regardless of whose money is involved. I hate to resort to worst-first thinking, but establishing bodily autonomy and physical boundaries are lessons that should be taught early, and are maybe even more important than swimming.

    3. I never said I was a swimming instructor; I just said that I’d witnessed, and helped with, the YMCA’s non-forceful, positive, and (mostly) effective swim teaching methods. Furthermore, NLS or not, I wouldn’t apply to work at your town’s pool, in any capacity (even cashier), because I don’t agree with the way that pool teaches swimming to kids.

  208. Warren July 19, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Enough is enough Emily. You have not been cert. to teach, or lifeguard. You have never done either. You have zero knowedge, zero experience and do not have a clue as to what you are talking about.

    Noone ever said about throwing them in the deep end, or pushing them. And as suspected you do not have a clue as to what actual dunking is. You may be a sweet young lady, but you are an ablsolute moron. Sorry but you need help.
    Bodily autonomy? Really? Get your head out of your butt, and the feel good books, and join the real world, and get some real life experience. Because right now you naive ways are getting annoying.

  209. hineata July 19, 2013 at 5:04 am #


    ‘more issues than National Geographic’.

    Love it! Best quote of the week…:-)

  210. Emily July 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    @Warren–Dunking means pushing a screaming child’s head underwater, right? The fact that I think that’s wrong, doesn’t make me an “absolute moron,” it makes me a non-forceful person. I don’t have “zero experience” with aquatics, or working with kids, either–there’s a lot of ground between “zero” and “Warren.”

  211. Warren July 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Well if you think that a trained instructor dunks their students in that fashion, then you are a major league moron with absolutely no experience at all.

    This is what happens when the inexperienced try to tell the experienced that they know better. The inexperienced just make fools out of themselves.

    Emily, try using your intellect instead of your emotions, it will suit you much better.

    Pushing a screaming kids head underwater……….rotflmao…..you really are that pathetically naive. Talk about worst first thinking. LOL this is and you are just too funny.

  212. SKL July 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Warren, maybe it’s a language issue. Please tell us what YOU mean when you say you dunk kids under water whether they want it or not.

    When I was growing up, “dunking” could mean forcibly shoving another kid’s head underwater against his/her will. It could also mean dunking one’s own head willingly.

    Where I live, the focus of water lessons for very young children is to get them comfortable in water, teach them how to breathe safely, teach them general water safety, and gradually teach them skills that eventually come together as swimming. There is a clear priority that the kids are comfortable and not panicked in the water. If that’s not how things are done in Warren’s swimming program, that doesn’t make me an idiot, it just means the philosophies are different. Kids can learn to swim either way.

    As for the idea that nobody without xyz swim teacher credentials is allowed to have an opinion about hour OUR children should be taught, that’s interesting. I suppose that means that Warren will refrain from commenting on any topic unless he has some sort of official license to spread his boundless wisdom on said topic. It will be refreshing to see more posts without his name-calling etc.

  213. Warren July 19, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    For the third time for the selective readers.
    “Yes with kids old enough to take instruction, you tell them to close their mouth and hold their breath. 9 times out of 10 you still dunk them. Kids younger you just do it on a bouncing count of 3, while mimicing the holding of your breath.”
    This is the second time I have cut and copied this earlier post of mine.

    It just goes to prove that most of you are narrow minded, and have a hatred for loud aggressive people, who tell it like it is. Because instead of reading and understanding, you just jump to attack. Next time read, learn and keep your foot out of your mouths.

    Differing opinions SKL does not make anyone an idiot. But not reading, and then making assumptions does make people idiots.

  214. SKL July 19, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    LOL Warren, you are right, I do not have time to read every single comment posted on every site I frequent. I may or may not have read your comment previously; I do not tend to memorize your posts as that would surely give me a headache. That said, your description of dunking is what I thought it meant. You push a kid under whether they want it or not.

    When will you learn that any “point” you may have is always lost in the nasty tone of your posts? Nobody said they “hate” you (or any other “loud aggressive people”), but it’s a pretty good guess that most of us would prefer to NOT have a discussion with them. There are billions of people who can hold an intelligent conversation without insults; why would we choose to engage with the person who belittles others at every chance?

  215. SKL July 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    PS warren, I just looked back at your original “dunking” comments where you admitted that there was lots of screaming, gasping, etc. involved. After which you would do it again and again to force the child to figure out how not to inhale water. Different strokes for different folks, but I wouldn’t choose to put my 3yo into that type of a class. It’s not necessary in my opinion.

    Funny since in an earlier post, you were all about making sure kids are relaxed, comfortable, and confident in water.

    If you really can’t imagine a kid being timid of water after your version of being dunked, then you don’t know much about human nature.

  216. SKL July 19, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Interesting – someone else started a “can you, your husband (DH) and your kids swim” thread on another site I frequent, and this is what one poster said:

    “DH is terrified of water, will only go in about up to hip level and no more. He had a bad instructor who pushed his head under water as a child. He has tried as an adult to take lessons but still cannot put his face in water, panics very easily in/around water.”


  217. Emily July 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    Okay, Warren, let me amend that to say that “dunking” means pushing an UNWILLING child’s head underwater.

  218. Emily July 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Wait a second, Warren, now I’m confused. For “dunking,” you mentioned both pushing a child’s head underwater, and just doing a bouncing count of three. Which one is it? For the record, I have no problem with the latter method, and I’ve seen it being done at the YMCA and other places.

  219. Amanda Matthews July 19, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    “He had a bad instructor who pushed his head under water as a child.”

    And let me guess, mom babied him, said the instructor was mean and said he didn’t have to go back?

    As for what the word dunking means… have you guys never heard of a dunk tank/dunking booth? Or dunking a basket ball? It simply means “immerse or dip in water.”

  220. Warren July 19, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Emily get the donuts out of your ears. I never said to push a kids head down. You never apply force to the top of the head of anyone, that you do not want to risk a neck injury.

    So do not put words in my mouth. This is what I really get a kick out of. Emily, Natalie and some others get so frustrated because they cannot stand to have someone just say it like it is, and call them out on things. They have to go so far as to put words in your mouth, twist the context to suit their own points. And all basically because they would rather use their weakness as an excuse, than admit it and deal with it.

    The meek shall not inherit the earth, because the meek do not have the balls to run it.


    Ran into parents like that even back then, I can only imagine how bad it is now.

    We had viewing areas for the parents that were on the second floor behind half an inch of plexiglass. Those parents bitched on the first day, that they were not allowed to remain poolside, but after that it was a joy just to deal with the kids.

    Every once in awhile you would get that parent, that insisted on telling you what their little darling liked, and didn’t like to do. You would politely remind them of the level and the skills going to be taught. Some were good with that, but others would point thing out in the lesson plan that their little one just doesn’t like, and would you please not make him/her do it. They really hated having a teenager tell them to take their child home, because the lesson plan is for everyone, and that is all there is to it.

  221. Emily July 20, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    @Warren–I still don’t get it. Was the dunking actually just a bouncing count of three, holding hands, and then going under together, or did you actually push on the child’s shoulders or something, since pushing their head would cause a head injury? I wasn’t trying to malign you; I just didn’t understand exactly what you meant by “dunking” in the context of teaching swimming lessons. I don’t approve of the practice if force is involved, but if you said that you were able to do it humanely, then how did you go about it?

    @Amanda Matthews–There’s a middle ground between allowing a child who’s been dunked by a swimming instructor to stop swimming, and forcing him or her to return to the same instructor. It’s also possible to switch classes, or even pools, or take a break from swimming lessons, but continue to practice the skills during free swim (if there isn’t a mandatory life jacket policy in place).

  222. Warren July 20, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Enough. I am not going to draw you a picture of each and everyway we did/do things. And do yourself a big favour, do not introduce words such as” humanely”, into a conversation such as this, as no matter how you try, it still comes off as degrading and accusatory. Which all it will get you is a Go to H—, Bi—. Again try to read and understand what you are actually reading. Pushing downward on the top of the head risks neck injury, many of which do not present at the time, but days later.

    As for your approval? Hundreds of instructors, if not thousands have been using these methods for decades. Taught to them by the governng body, and employers across Ontario and Canada. So you can take your approval, shine it up real nice, turn it sideways and stick it up your candy a–.
    As for your worry of traumatizing a child………..it does not happen. Never has happened. So stop the worst first thinking.

  223. SKL July 20, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    “And let me guess, mom babied him, said the instructor was mean and said he didn’t have to go back?”

    I don’t know that person’s life history, but I know there are many others like this, including people whose own parents “threw them in” and certainly did not “baby” them.

    The thing is, this is about learning a really important life skill. If a method is known to make some people less safe around water than they would be without lessons, maybe that’s not the best method for every kid. So far I’ve seen nothing to convince me that “dunking” a child who isn’t willing leads to better results than other methods. Maybe some kids will be ready to submerge their faces a day or two earlier, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t make any difference.

    I have a kid who, as a tot, absolutely hated having water poured on her head. Her nanny would insist on doing it every single day and making her scream. Why the hell? She grew out of her fear some time after the nanny stopped bathing her. At 3 she had no trouble keeping up with the other kids in swim class. But if they had forcibly “dunked” her, I think that would have been a setback. All kids are different, and there’s no need to call a parent names when she chooses one valid path over another for her kids.

    ** I’m sure Warren will come back with choice names for me because I felt for my screaming kid. FYI my kid came home via adoption at age 1 and she had a lot of issues relating to the complete disruption in her life. Irrational fears and sensory sensitivities are to be expected in such a case. It’s just one of those things that only the parents would know/understand, so there’s no point judging parents who make decisions different from what the Warrens of the world would choose.

  224. Uly July 20, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    Warren, you don’t “tell it like it is”, you go out of your way to insult and harass people who disagree with you. You refuse to have an adult, civil conversation, and you seem perplexed by the concept of communicating with your words.

    Nobody “hates” you (pity is more like it), but that doesn’t mean we are all going to cave in and agree with you simply because you want to throw a tantrum like a child. Like it or not, you cannot make people agree with you by using profanity (and no, the dashes don’t fool anybody) and insults. Your argument has to be valid on its own merits.

  225. Emily July 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Okay, Warren, you gave me chapter and verse on what you DIDN’T do while dunking children during swimming lessons. I’m not confused because I didn’t read the thead carefully; I’m confused because you said both “ignore the screams and just dunk the child,” and “hold hands for bouncing count of three and go under together,” so I don’t know which one it is. As for my choice of words, I suppose “approve” is the wrong word–let’s just say that I agree with the YMCA’s non-dunking philosophy. Is that wording okay with you? As for “humanely,” I can’t seem to find a better word……how about “non-forcefully?” That still sounds a bit accusatory as well, but I can’t think of another one right now. However, while we’re on the subject of word choices, writing the first letter of a nasty word, and filling in a dash for the rest, means the same thing as if you’d written the word out in full.

  226. Warren July 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm #


    Either you are a liar, or you are beyond stupid. Which is it?
    If you have taken the courses you claim to have taken, then you should know exactly what I am talking about. So which is it?

    Again these are methods for general classes, not for kids with special needs. Not all kids are special needs, and every damn thing does not need to be modified just for special needs.

    Yes I do tell it like it is. I call a spade a spade, and in your case I take my grandfathers advice……..just because it looks like a moron, acts like a moron and talks like a moron, don’t let it fool you…..the person is still a moron.

  227. Emily July 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Warren, I took those courses a long time ago. I don’t remember every detail, and since we didn’t dunk kids, I wouldn’t know how to do it “safely,” because that particular skill was never taught to us. So, I guess, by your standards, that would make me “beyond stupid.”

  228. SKL July 21, 2013 at 12:06 am #

    I’m not really sure how this whole thing got to be about dunking kids, which is not even necessary to learning to swim.

    I don’t think Lenore requires a “my kid got dunked by a swim coach” badge for membership in the FRK club.

    It seems to me that the most free-range way to learn to swim is to teach yourself, at your own pace, in whatever way you prefer. Which is the way most kids did it when I was growing up and before that. No dunking required – though your friends/sibs might still dunk you while you played together unsupervised in the public pool.

  229. Warren July 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm #


    How it got started, was by people who have read books, taken some lessons, and others who do not know how to swim, attacking an experienced instructor and lifeguard for the methods he uses, and used. Methods taught by governing bodies that control certification.

    All in a forum that is supposed to be free range. Part of which is allowing kids to deal with things, such as a little adversity. But like any other forum, the people in here will talk the talk, and walk the walk until it gets to their own kids. Then they are just as weak, full of it as the people they discussed. Just like alot of the tree huggers. Give me solar, give me windpower, just don’t put the turbine or panels near my home.

    Fairweather free range parents is what most of you are.

  230. SKL July 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Actually it was probably me who said something to the effect that “I don’t know that I’d want someone else dunking my kids; if they need dunking, I’d rather dunk them myself.” Which seemed to anger you. It seems to me that free range involves different strokes for different folks. Most likely there are “adversities” that I put my kids through that you have not. As long as they all know how to wipe their arses when they go to college, the details don’t matter that much.


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